Category Archives: Romance

Practical Magic (1998)

Practical Magic

Genre: Romance, Comedy

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman

Synopsis: Bullock and Kidman play two sister witches who are plagued by a curse: the men they fall in love with are doomed die early.

This must be one of the chickiest chick flicks to ever grace cinema. It’s got everything women love: sisterhood, sappy emotional drivel, and Wicca. Also, Sandra Bullock. She is like cat-nip for white women. Ordinarily these things combined would scare me off but, after having an American Horror Story: Coven marathon over the holiday season, I decided to give this a shot to see if it was just as good. Turns out it wasn’t. Surprise, surprise. However, as I always say, some of the worst films out there can become the best films with the aid of a little weed. While I wouldn’t say weed made this one of the best films, it certainly made it more enjoyable…most likely because it helped me to realise what this film is actually about.

Cocaine

Yes, that’s right. This film is all about Nicole Kidman’s character overcoming her addiction to blow. How do I know it’s about cocaine? Well, for starters Kidman runs away and becomes this groupie chick in the desert and then starts hanging around with a sordid crowd. She then goes into this house, kind of like the one in Boogie Nights, and then starts talking a lot about “Angel love” i.e. angel dust. Boom. She’s an addict. It’s hardly surprising really. Most films about witchcraft seem to have addiction as a central theme. Just look at The Craft, which was all about heroin addiction. I wonder why that is. It’s probably because performing magic would give you a power trip in the same way that doing drugs sends you on a trip. If you could alter the laws of the universe for personal gain, it would be hard to use that power responsibly. Willow from Buffy found out the hard way….and she was clearly on some strong shit.

Dark WillowMy guess is that it’s meth

So, drug abuse aside, what is good about this movie. Well, it’s quite stylish for one thing. These women live in a gorgeous house. It’s a grand old wooden Victorian house next to the ocean. It also has a sick greenhouse. I would push my mother down the stairs if it meant I could live in a house like that. Also, the soundtrack is surprisingly good in places. It’s got that one Faith Hill song in it that everyone likes but no one can remember the words to. However, the film also has a song in it in which the artist rhymes the word ‘glove’ with ‘love.’ That’s pretty amateur.

Something else that’s pretty amateur in places is the writing. Whoever wrote this film clearly had no idea about police procedure. I can’t believe these women let the cop in without a warrant and he handles evidence without the proper equipment. Any hack could get his entire case thrown out. Seriously writers, if you are going to have a cop as a character in your work, whatever it may be, please learn about proper police protocol. It’s very easy and it is mistakes like these that threaten to derail an otherwise coherent movie.

High-lights:

  • Stylish.
  • No matter how you look at it, Sandra Bullock is still kind of a BAMF.
  • It has the cat-faced lady who played Mona in the first Tales of the City series!
  • The scene where Sandra Bullock hears the beetle is actually quite good.

Downers:

  • It kind of skims over the Salem witch trials, which is one of the most interesting points in history. I would have preferred more detail on how idiotic people were back then….”My milk hath gone sour! It must be the doing of a witch!” No, it’s because your dumb-ass left the milk outside in 40 degree weather.
  • It was sad how the kids stoned young Nicole. Kids are shits.

Summary:

This is one of those light, feel-good movies that will completely disappear from your mind a few days after watching it. That’s not a bad thing. Sometimes it’s good to watch these sorts of movies just to kill some time or to impress your girlfriend. From an objective point of view, Practical Magic is kind of mediocre. Let’s be honest, it was never going to light the world on fire. However, under the right circumstances (i.e. you must be blitzed) it can be a pretty enjoyable film if you let it be. It wins points from me because of that.

6.5/10

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Filed under Comedy, Good, Romance

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Bridget Jones Diary

Genre: Romance, Comedy

Cast: Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth

Synopsis: A year in the life of tragic singleton Bridget Jones

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have no doubt noticed something odd with Renée Zellweger. In short, she has a brand new face…one that is very different to her old face. My friend has a theory that someone killed Zellweger and assumed her identity and has everyone fooled. Most other rational people think she’s gone under the knife. Then again, maybe not…as this gif points out, it can all be a matter of perspective.

Face-angles

Anyway, the point of this post is not to debate whether Zellweger had the Wacko-Jacko treatment. This post is instead going to celebrate Zellweger’s best work. Bridget Jones is a role she truly made her own and one which brought her into the hearts of many a British spinster/singleton.

In all my years as a movie-watcher, I have never seen any American manage to portray a British person quite so convincingly. Sure, Zellweger doesn’t get the accent right 100 per cent of the time but being British has nothing to do with the accent. It’s all about the mannerisms, the mind-set, the awkwardness, and the charm; all things Zellweger manages to nail. Who can deny the Britishness of chugging a bottle of wine alone, finishing off the last bit of cheese in the house while watching Fatal Attraction and singing 80s power ballads? Seriously, I have done that. Most British people have done that. That’s why everyone loves us so much. As a group of people, we’re weird and eccentric and people don’t always get our sense of humour, but there’s just something so devilishly intriguing and amusing about us isn’t there?

BorisPictured: the epitome of Britishness

Not only does this film show Zellweger’s talents, but it also displays one of Great Britain’s greatest assets: fit posh-boys. Is there a man as vagina-moisteningly gorgeous as Colin Firth? Short answer is ‘no.’ Long answer is ‘possibly’ but that one won’t come with as sexy an accent. I want Colin Firth to impregnate me. Mark Darcy? Phwoooar. Even Hugh Grant in this film is kind of hot in an ‘evil hairless bastard’ kind of way. To put it succinctly, there is so much eye-toffee in this you will be mopping up your seat with a sheet of Bounty once you’re done watching this film.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’m not really a fan of romantic comedies but Bridget Jones’s Diary is an exception. I can kind of see a lot of myself in the main character, as I am sure a lot of Brits can. Maybe that’s partly why I like this film so much: it gives me hope that one day my own Colin Firth will come into my life while wearing a hideous Christmas jumper…one can dream…

High-lights:

  • A great window into the awesomeness of the British, one that bypasses all our negative qualities like passive-aggressive tutting, constantly apologising and colonialism.
  • Fuck me now Colin Firth.
  • The fight scene is probably the best (and most depressingly accurate) fight scene I have ever seen in a movie. They even apologise while fighting.
  • Run Bridget!!! Run into the snow naked to get your man!
  • “….mainly poofs.”

Downers:

  • Typical of Richard Curtis films, every hot young singleton in London knows every other hot young singleton and they all live in lovely flats in Zone 1. It’s all make believe!
  • Geri Halliwell…I will never forgive you for what you did to the Spice Girls.
  • She’s been a journalist for all of 15 sodding minutes and she’s already more successful than me.

Summary:

If you’re coming over to the UK for a holiday, this is the film that you should watch before you leave. It will properly introduce you to the ways of the British and help you assimilate. Of course, you should watch this film even when you’re not coming to the UK because it’s still a bloody good laugh.

8/10

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Filed under Comedy, Great, Romance

Save the Last Dance (2001)

Save the Last Dance

Genre: Drama, Romance

Cast: Julia Stiles, Sean Patrick Thomas

Synopsis: After her mother dies in a tragic accident, a young girl moves to the Chicago hood where she gets an education in dance, love, and life….très corny, I know.

I have never been much of a dancer. In fact, I’m one of the clumsiest people around. I trip over flat surfaces and have a tendency to knock things over. Moreover, I have no natural rhythm. Watching me dance is like watching Bambi learn to walk for the first time. That’s not to say that I hate dancing. If you read my review of Flashdance then you will know that I love awkwardly gyrating around my room when nobody can see. I my head, I move like someone from So You Think You Can Dance. In reality, I move like a typical white person.

white-people-cant-dance_o_762469

I know that I’m giving in to racial stereotyping by saying that white people can’t dance but, in my experience, it’s generally true. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a very rural and white area, but I’ve yet to be blown away by a white guy on the dance floor. This is why Save the Last Dance gives me hope. Here, you have a girl who is whiter than mayonnaise. She knows a thing or two about dance but lacks the ability to get crunk. After moving to an inner city environment, however, she blossoms and becomes the dancer she always wanted to be. It makes me think that one day I too can mesmerise people when I throw shapes on the floor…instead of just filling them with silent dread.

All joking aside, this movie is tooth-achingly sweet. It has that 90s/early 2000s optimism that features in other teen movies from that time. It’s about overcoming adversity and achieving your dreams. Ordinarily, this would not appeal to me but this film is different. Part of the reason why I like this film is that there is a hot and steamy interracial relationship at its core. I wish I could say that we were at a point, as a society, where interracial relationships on screen were not a big deal. Unfortunately, I do not think we are there, even 13 years after this film came out.

Think about all the romance movies out there. How many of them have an interracial couple in them? I guarantee you it’s not that many and a lot of those films will have an African-American/Hispanic relationship as opposed to an African-American/White one. That’s part of the reason why Save the Last Dance is so good. It’s willing to go where few films have gone. Not only that, it presents a realistic yet positive spin on these relationships. This movie doesn’t shy away from the fact that interracial relationships can be seen as taboo. In fact, it deals with the subject head on. I took a critical race theory class while I studied in the US and I know that talking about race in America is hard thing to do. It makes people uncomfortable. However, it’s important to have those conversations and it’s impressive to see a movie engage in a discussion of race so responsibly.

White Chicks movie imageOthers have not been so responsible…

Beyond the topic of race, Save the Last Dance is enjoyable for other reasons. Firstly, Julia Stiles is awesome and she pulls off some killer moves in this film. Secondly, the supporting cast is strong and her sassy friend lets off some cracking one liners. Finally, the music makes you want to bust a move, even if it is in the privacy of your own home. Who can resist grinding to ‘Murder She Wrote.’ I’m very much talking about the song by Chaka Demus and Pliers, not the TV show. As much as I love Angela Lansbury, I wouldn’t get down to the TV show.

High-lights:

  • Great presentation of an interracial relationship.
  • Julia Stiles is my teen idol. I wish we saw more of her today.
  • It’s a sweet story but not too sweet. There’s hardship in there too.
  • Epic dance choreography.

Downers:

  • It’s kind of depressing to realise I will never dance that well.
  • Inner city Chicago is bleak. It’s sad to see parts of a city like that. It’s a reminder to all that inequality is alive and well.

Summary:

Save the Last Dance is the sort of movie you should watch when you’re feeling down in the dumps. It’s a film that is uplifting and just a little bit inspirational. Don’t get me wrong, the movie has its moments of cheese but these can be ignored by focusing on the epic dance scenes and the chemistry between Stiles and Thomas.

7.5/10

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Filed under Drama, Good, Romance

Red Riding Hood (2011)

red riding hood

Genre: Romance, Thriller

Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Julie Christie

Synopsis: It’s basically a retarded but sexed-up version of the fairy tale we all know and love.

Little girl in a red cape goes into the forest to visit her grandmother. She gets to the house and finds that her grandmother has been eaten by a wolf. Wold gets killed. The end. It’s a story that we’ve all grown up with and one that we all know off by heart. It’s a simple story, for sure, and that’s probably why there have not been many attempts to adapt the story for cinema. I mean, how can you stretch the story of Red Riding Hood into 90 minutes? Catherine Hardwicke certainly had an idea…one that maybe wasn’t entirely obvious. Her plan was basically to turn little red riding hood into a ho.

red riding hood“Grandma! What a big erection you have!”

Let’s examine this idea for the moment. In my honest opinion, it’s not THAT bad. As I mentioned in my review for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, a lot of fun could be had with adapting traditional fairy tales for modern audiences. They would have to be dark though. That’s where Hansel and Gretel failed. Red Riding Hood is an improvement as it deals with the theme of female sexuality; something that works well with the original tale. Where the film fails, however, is with the execution.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Hardwicke did direct Twilight and this film has a similar feel. It’s too teen friendly with its hunks and budding ingénue. A proper adaptation would be about prostitution with a serial killer thrown into the mix. Instead we get a film about a werewolf and a girl being torn between two guys who performs a pseudo-lesbian dance to seduce one of them. Seriously girls, that’s the oldest trick in the book and doing it in medieval dress is in no way sexy. You need to watch Showgirls and take some lessons from Nomi Malone.

nomi1

What is surprising is that this film has a very good cast. It’s got Julie Christie in it who, may I remind you, has an Oscar. Gary Oldman is also a brilliant actor. I even think Amanda Seyfried is a good actress. I’ve seen Lovelace and I was impressed with her performance in that. I think the problem with her is that she picks terrible roles and this film’s central character (who is horribly named Valerie) is another role that is beneath her talent.

All in all, I found this film to be wholly underwhelming. It’s like watching a mediocre slutty Sleepy Hollow. It has some great performers, a fresh theme, and even some good style but it lacks the bite and the shock-value that it sorely needs. This film doesn’t really have much to keep your attention if you’re over the age of 15.

High-lights:

  • Max Irons is adorable and he is well buff in The Riot Club.
  • Some beautiful scenery.
  • Good theme.
  • Red Riding Hood’s mum is hysterical. The film is supposed to be set in the middle ages but with all that makeup it looks like the mother just came from the club.

Downers:

  • Poor execution.
  • Inappropriate use of the pseudo-lesbian dance.
  • Creepy incest moment.
  • Boring characters.

Summary:

I’m still waiting on someone to come along and bowl me over with a fresh and exciting fairy tale adaptation. I hear that they’re making a sequel to Hansel and Gretel so it looks like we won’t be getting one for quite some time. Shit.

3.5/10

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Filed under Crap, Romance, Thriller

Romancing the Stone (1984)

Romancing the Stone

Genre: Romance, Comedy, Action/Adventure

Cast: Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito

Synopsis: A wussy romance writer goes off to Colombia to rescue her sister who has been kidnapped. There, she gets lost in the jungle and meets a rugged yet brutish Michael Douglas.

Ordinarily, I’m not the sort of guy who likes chick-flicks. In fact, it’s a rule of mine to avoid most chick-flicks. However, I’m willing to break that rule if the movie was made in the 1980s. It was a golden age for the genre, before all the Julia Roberts, Meg Ryans, and Katherine Heigls came along to incite my hatred. I decided to switch my viewing routine up a little by watching a classic rom-com from the 80s. My mother recommended Romancing the Stone so, last Friday, I chilled out, got into my comfy PJs and then got in touch with my feminine side.

Cat LadyWhat my feminine side looks like

I can see why this film is so popular with some women. For starters, the main character is, in fact, a crazy cat lady. She is the most stereotypical female shut-in you can imagine: she writes erotic literature, has conversations with her cat, and throws plates around for no reason. Her erotic fiction isn’t even that good. As a (struggling/failing) writer, I found myself screaming at the laptop and trying to reason with her that she should not under any circumstances hand in the draft to her publisher. Still, part of me was envious. She has my dream life: beautiful apartment in the city and a fuck-off easy job. Plus, Kathleen Turner has the voice I want. It’s like butter mixed with sex.

Butter Sex…Or not

Turner’s voice makes me want to start smoking a pack of 20 a day. Anyway, this film successfully overcame the first of my hurdles that rom-coms regularly stumble at: it has a main character who is flawed but still likeable.

What about the male lead? Well, as far as panty droppers go, Michael Douglas is not the most desirable of men. It’s something that really confused me in Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction. The man is, quite simply, swimming in vagina. It’s a mystery to me, but I actually quite like that the male lead in this film is not a super-stud. It gives me hope that one day I too can find someone who doesn’t look like a smacked arse. Plus, when he threw a kilo of weed onto a camp fire and inhaled I wanted to cheer. I wonder if that works.

I think the thing that really stood out for me in this movie is that I hadn’t seen anything quite like it before. The plot is ridiculous. I mean, a lady gets mugged and kidnapped by a ten year old and then Kathleen Turner’s character befriends a drug cartel leader after she finds out he’s a fan of her work. Plus, this film has crocodiles and Danny DeVito. Romancing the Stone’s quirkiness is definitely its biggest strength and I think it will be hard to find another romantic-comedy that is as bizarre and unique.

High-lights:

  • Kathleen Turner’s voice.
  • Turner and Douglas have really good chemistry.
  • Danny DeVito can do no wrong.

Downers:

  • This film makes it look like being a writer is really easy.
  • It’s depressing to think I will never have a crazy romance like the one in this film.
  • I don’t think drug cartelists in real life are as friendly as the one in the movie.

Summary:

Romancing the Stone isn’t perfect by any means, but it knows how silly it is and plays into that. It’s a film sweeps you up in the adventure and it avoids a lot of the problems I find in romantic comedies. Romancing the Stone is the sort of film I think most people can enjoy. There is something for everyone: action, comedy, good character development, even a cheeky nipple slip right at the start. Even if you’re not a fan of romantic comedies, this one should still manage to keep you entertained.

7/10

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Filed under Action/Adventure, Comedy, Good, Romance

Celeste and Jesse Forever (2011)

Celeste and Jesse Forever

Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama

Cast: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Elijah Wood

Synopsis: Childhood sweethearts Celeste and Jesse are getting divorced but can they manage to stay best friends?

I like to keep as up to date as possible when it comes to movies. I read all sorts of things to keep abreast of the movie industry: trade magazines, newspapers, blog posts, reddit etc. As such, I get quite surprised when I come across a movie I haven’t heard a lot about. Celeste and Jesse Forever was one of those movies. I was instantly drawn to it because it has my future husband (Andy Samberg) in it and I was spurred on by good reviews and word-of-mouth. Overall, it wasn’t a bad choice.

The film boasts an impressive cast who manage to do a pretty good job for the most part. If this movie accomplished one thing it’s that it convinced me of Rashida Jones’ talents as a serious dramatic actress. She showed a lot of potential in The Social Network and in this film she cashes it all in. The best example is when Jesse tells her he got some book shop slut knocked up a few months after the divorce. Seriously, why is it always the bookish ones that are the hoes? Subconsciously, it’s probably the reason why I hang out in book shops so much…I’m looking for a gentleman in the streets but a freak between the sheets….moving on. Jones really impressed me in the scene. You can almost feel her pain as she desperately tries to reel it in. The other cast members also have their moments but it’s Jones that really stood out. Actually, do you know who else stood out?

Surprise Bitch

That’s right! Emma Roberts. Her character is complete fluff in this movie. She essentially plays some sort of bitchy Lindsay Lohan/Miley Cyrus combo. There is no real reason to have her in the film but I don’t care because I secretly love her. I also love her character’s song in this movie, “Do it on my face.” What I did not appreciate, however, was Jones’ characters’ attempt to market her to the gay crowd because we love dick in the butt. Yes, we do love dicks in butts, I will admit that, but I’m not going to buy merchandise or buy into a product simply because it references that. Gay guys are not that shallow. Fag-hags, maybe, but not gay guys.

While I enjoyed most of the film, it did suffer from two central failings. The first is that it tries a little too hard to be the new 500 Days of Summer by subverting the romantic comedy genre. I wasn’t convinced it accomplished it as successfully as 500 Days of Summer which, in my opinion, did it in an effortless and honest way. The character drama in Celeste and Jesse Forever is a little too ridiculous to be believable and borders on farcical at times. It feels a little too contrived. The second failing was occasional clumsy writing. For instance, I don’t know why the writers pretend that LA is some spiritual-health mecca. Don’t get me wrong, I love LA but it is not Nirvana. Angelinos don’t all do yoga or pilates. Moreover, people who say “Namaste” and discuss kale varieties are likely to get “Bitch please” looks.

Bitch PleaseChristina gets it

OK, you know what? I actually do love kale but I’m not THAT crazy about it. I swear.

High-lights:

  • Rashida Jones ability to do serious dramatic acting.
  • Beautiful LA. This is the city I fell in love with…although I swear to God the people who live there aren’t always like this.
  • Andy Samberg…drool.
  • Awesome soundtrack couples with some great Sofia Coppola-esque dream-like scenes.
  • Lots and lots of pot.

Downers:

  • Elijah Wood makes for a pretty dull gay friend.
  • A little too contrived in places.
  • Lazy stereotyping thanks to clumsy scriptwriting.

Summary:

I enjoyed this film. I’m not going to pretend it’s the greatest film out there but it was certainly a good way to kill a couple of hours. I can’t guarantee you’ll like, though. That will depend on your ability to overlook its sense of self-awareness. If you can look past it though I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

7/10

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Filed under Comedy, Drama, Good, Romance

The Garden of Words (2013)

The Garden of Words

Genre: Animated, Drama, Romance

Cast: Kana Hanazawa, Miyu Irino

Synopsis: A teenage boy meets a drunk lady in the park on a rainy morning and they strike up an inappropriate relationship.

One thing I love about Japanese films is that they continue to push the boundaries of what is really “appropriate subject matter” in film. As I am sure you all know, I have a fondness for movies which I can categorise as “WTF Japan” and, thanks to director Makoto Shinkai, I now have another movie I can add. The Garden of Words is the melancholy story of a (clearly sexually confused) teenager with a foot fetish who skips school on rainy morning to go sketch shoes at Shinjuku Gyoen park. One day, he runs into a lady sat in the ark knocking back beer and pigging out on chocolate.

Freeze. Now, at this point, alarm bells would start ringing in the head of most normal people. This kid, however, is not normal and he and the lady strike up a friendship. The woman seems mild mannered enough. She’s not some kind of washed-out Las Vegas drunkard. Still, you know this lady has some problems because who the fuck goes drinking in public park at 9am on a weekday? Bitch, go to work!!! Anyway, one thing leads to another and he starts touching her feet. Cringe.

Despite the creepy and inappropriate premise, The Garden of Words is actually a sweet little film. I was surprised to find that it ran for only ran for a total of 45 minutes. It felt more substantial. Perhaps it’s because the film has a story with depth and interesting characters which help to build tension. Neither character lays all their shit immediately out in the open. Instead, their relationship grows organically and as they learn more about each other so do we. In a way, the relationship feels like a very real one. The two joke, poke fun at each other, eat together, and eventually come to rely on each other. Their true feelings shown only in poetic soliloquies as they go about their ordinary lives: riding the train, going to school, working. It’s a reserved film for the most part which is something I like. The ending is a bit cheesy, if I’m being honest, but I can overlook that.

As with Shinkai’s earlier film, 5 Centimetres per Second, The Garden of Words is exquisitely animated. The level of detail in the scenery is phenomenal. Moreover, it captures life in Tokyo as it actually looks. It was great to see Tokyo in perfectly captured in animation and, one thing is for certain, it is a city that looks spectacular in the rain. In England, the rain feels gloomy. In Tokyo, it feels lush and rejuvenating and this is mirrored in the characters’ own development. If anything, this film really made me miss Tokyo and if anyone is ever interested in going, then I recommend that you watch this film to get an idea of what’s in store i.e. women day-drinking in parks with men with very specific fetishes.

High-lights:

  • Seriously Japan. WTF? The story is perverse.
  • Intricate animation that blows competitors out of the water.
  • Well-developed characters and great dialogue.
  • Pimp-slap!
  • Yummy Japanese food.

Downers:

  • Cheesy ending, although the scene after the credits is nice.
  • Let me touch your feet on a park bench in broad daylight!
  • So……is she a kiddy-fiddler?

Summary:

The Garden of Words is an intriguing anime that manages to entertain with its story, characters, and animation. The characters’ relationship would be considered grossly inappropriate by most western studios and audiences (think Notes on a Scandal but without Dame Judi getting her lesbian freak on), but again it shows wonderful insight into cultural differences between Japan and the West. I’d recommend that you give it a go and, if you don’t like it, it’s only 45 minutes long so you won’t feel like you’ve lost a giant chunk of time which you will never get back.

7.5/10

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Filed under Animation, Drama, Good, Romance