“Last Christmas” Second Trailer!

Another trailer has dropped for Last Christmas, so it’s time to revisit the glittery, glitzy Christmas wonderland that director Paul Feig has created, where everybody is singing George Michael and dancing around beautifully-lit London in unnaturally well-tailored outfits: and this time, we’ve got a clearer idea of what our two love-struck protagonists are up to, and what sort of – oh, who am I kidding, let’s get to the good stuff.

Our holiday heroine’s love interest, Tom (Henry Golding), has been rumored to be a ghost/hallucination/guardian angel since the first trailer dropped, with more keen-eyed viewers than me picking up on numerous details that suggested he was, at the very least, an unusual kind of fellow. I was skeptical at the time, but since then (especially since this trailer) a lot has changed…let’s take a look at the evidence.

Throughout this latest trailer, there is a heavy emphasis on the song that inspired both the film’s title, and, supposedly, its plot: but whereas George Michael’s original song refers to Christmas heartbreak, there’s no hint of anything but true love in the film – so what if the inspiration is rather more indirect? Maybe “I gave you my heart” isn’t meant metaphorically, but…physically. In this trailer, our heroine, Kate (Emilia Clarke) narrates about how, last Christmas, she was very sick, and was rushed to a hospital for treatment: what happened there is still conveniently mysterious, but it clearly affected Kate’s life in a bad way – since then, she’s taken to drinking, and has become a moody, selfish person. But now, with another Christmas just around the corner, Kate’s life is suddenly changed by a man named Tom who just randomly shows up one day at her workplace and then runs into her everywhere else she goes – now, one reading of this would be “stalker alert”, but Tom appears to be a decent guy: as in, so decent he literally doesn’t have a bad bone in his body. Does that mean he’s an angel sent to guide Kate into the next chapter of her life? Does it mean he’s the ghost of the heart donor who saved Kate’s life last Christmas by giving her his heart?

Well, not necessarily, no; it could just mean he’s a rom-com protagonist without a whole lot of depth to his character. But the situation has become a lot more intense with these new reveals.

Also, take a look at the title: the heart over the letter “i” is literally beating. At this point, I’ll be hugely disappointed if Tom doesn’t turn out to be a visitor from heaven. Another theory suggests that Tom is actually back for revenge on the woman who’s squandering the heart he gave her, which is…interesting.

And as for the rest of the trailer, it’s pretty good: there’s perhaps a bit too much stuff rehashed from the first teaser, such as the meeting with the doctor, the incident with the hawk, and the “Lazy the Elf” exchange with Michelle Yeoh’s character. Emma Thompson gets a chance to shine, as the nurturing Russian woman who cares for Kate and sings her to sleep at night – something which Kate likens to waterboarding.

So what do you think? Will Tom turn out to be a ghost, an angel, or something else entirely? How does George Michael’s music tie into the film’s plot? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 8/10

“Falling Inn Love” Movie Review!

Cute and classy, Netflix’s new late-summer love story, Falling Inn Love, is decent enough fare for an end-of-August afternoon, but might not do much to satisfy audiences craving bold new content with unexpected plot twists or subverted expectations. This really is the sort of movie that should be watched on a couch, preferably while wearing pajamas, when there’s nothing else to do. That’s not an insult, just a reference for when and how you should go into this film in order to get the desired effect. It’s sleepy comfort-food for the soul.

The romance at the heart of the film is charming enough, and relies on the Opposites-Attract formula. Gabriela (Christina Milian) is a stressed out architect from San Francisco who’s bored with the corporate hamster-wheel of her busy life: finding no comfort in either yoga sessions or her over-eager boyfriend, she flies out to New Zealand after she wins a charming little bed-and-breakfast inn in a contest. Once there (literally, as soon as she arrives), she runs into Jake (Adam Demos), the town’s most eligible bachelor/contractor, who decides to help her renovate and remodel the place. That’s basically it. Both stars are likable, but Milian more so: perhaps because Demos’ charming Kiwi handyman takes on the Moody Brooding Leading Man™ persona about halfway through, which then leads to some severe misuse of the Misunderstanding™ trope, followed by some of that good old “I Can’t Fall In Love Because [Insert Past Tragedy]”™ cliche. I won’t spoil too much, but the story basically devolves into a series of well-worn story beats a little more than halfway through.

As for the scenic backdrop of New Zealand and its culture, which wows Gabriela, well…it’s barely ever seen. In a small-budget film like this, that’s not really surprising, but it does make one wonder why the script focuses so heavily on Gabriela’s constant surprise at the Kiwi way of life, when almost everything we see in the rural locale of Beechwood can be found in any American town. I say almost because there are a few Maori phrases in the cast’s vocabulary, as well as a few Maori extras and supporting characters. But really, this film could be set anywhere and it wouldn’t make much difference.

So, if you don’t plan on going anywhere for an hour and a half, why not relax on the sofa, grab some snacks, and give Falling Inn Love a chance? It’s cute, it’ll pass the time, and it doesn’t require too much thought. But in a world where rom-coms are becoming increasingly more thought-provoking (looking at you, Last Christmas), it just might not be enough.

Movie Rating: 6/10

“Last Christmas” Trailer!

I waited a very long time for this trailer to drop last night, but eventually sleep beckoned, so I apologize for not rushing out a review at 1 A.M. This morning, when I woke up to find Last Christmas and Emilia Clarke trending, I thought I would have very little to talk about in a review: I watched it. It looked cute, charming, but inconsequential. I was already planning an excuse not to write about it – when I saw the main topic of discussion about this trailer, and realized that this has sparked a debate so weird and laughable, I simply had to get involved.

For those unaware, Last Christmas is a cheerful holiday rom-com inspired by the music of George Michael (though, there’s really no sign of that inspiration in the trailer, other than the accompanying music). It stars Emilia Clarke as a cynical, embittered Londoner suffering from what appears to be alcoholism, working as a Christmas elf in a department store. Somewhere in between electrocuting fish and getting yelled at by her store manager, Clarke’s character, Kate, runs into a man named Tom who seems almost too good to be true, always smiling and laughing, who donates to charity, volunteers at a homeless shelter, and is basically an all-around Awesome Person. Tom and Kate fall in love, and…well, it’s a romantic comedy. They fall in love. Is there supposed to be any more to it than that?

According to the internet, yes. The general consensus is that there’s no way this movie could ever be entirely happy. I’ve seen two theories gaining traction that both are theoretically plausible, but highly unlikely: the first is that Tom is so pure of heart that he must be an angel, come to change Kate’s life and teach her the values of love and Christmas spirit, etc, etc. The other, sadly, is that Kate, whom we see being wheeled into a hospital, communicating with a therapist, and getting wildly drunk, is actually dying, and that Tom is a hallucination, some last-ditch attempt by her brain to get her to change her ways – or that Kate’s condition is actually heart problems, and that Tom is the ghost of the heart donor who saved her life. We’ve seen funny plays on “I gave you my heart” before, but this one really takes the cake.

Is it that hard to believe that Henry Golding’s character Tom is just a decent guy?

If any of these theories turn out to be true, it would certainly be a shocking and bittersweet conclusion to what, on the surface, looks like a really sweet Christmas comedy. It would also be a startling choice from Emilia Clarke, who recently revealed that she barely survived two life-threatening brain aneurysms. I kind of want this to just be a cheerful, low-stakes romantic comedy that doesn’t have to be a tearjerker – we’re already going to be crying our eyes out over Little Women, another holiday movie: can’t anything just be nice? Do we absolutely have to make it weird?

What are your thoughts? Do you think the theories carry any weight, or is this movie just what it appears to be – Emilia Clarke dancing around in a bright green elf-costume while Henry Golding stands by, looking handsome and too-pure-for-this-world? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 7/10

“Little Women” Trailer Review!

Visionary director Greta Gerwig is bringing the story of Little Women back to the big screen this Christmas, and it’s like nothing you’ve seen before. This is an adaptation of the story that turns the spotlight on 19th Century gender politics, and the four March sisters who learn how to navigate an oppressive society without sacrificing any of their freedom and passion for life. This is, according to Gerwig, a story drawn not only from Louisa May Alcott’s original novel, but from the author’s personal worldviews and other writings: it is a message about what defines true love, perseverance and resistance.

It leads to an unusual but exciting first trailer for the film, which seems both old-fashioned in its setting and peculiarly modern in its attitude; even radical at times. Saoirse Ronan, the film’s lead actress, portrays Jo March, the eldest of the four sisters and the writer of the group, who tries to publish a novel in which the lead character, a woman, doesn’t marry – something to which her publisher strongly objects; Emma Watson is Meg March, who, of course, does end up happily married, despite Jo’s insistence that she should follow her dream to become an actress – she’s seen as one of the weaker characters in the story by some modern critics, but Watson is clearly making her much more sympathetic; Florence Pugh is Amy, the self-absorbed “last hope” of the March family; and Eliza Scanlen is Beth, the family’s quietest, most soft-spoken member, who also receives the least screentime in the trailer. All four are forced to look at their lives in new ways, as they experience the turbulence of first love, marriage, motherhood, grief and the pain of growing up and out of their naive innocence.

Meryl Streep also makes an appearance as the short-tempered and domineering Aunt March, easily stealing her scenes in the trailer. We’re in for a definite treat here, with Streep bringing wit and charming elegance to the role of the elderly matron, whose callous exterior hides a gentle heart.

The main takeaway from this trailer is that this Little Women is awards-season gold: a close, intimate study of the era’s views on gender, and the slowly blossoming feminist movement, witnessed through the eyes of four independent and strong-willed heroines. I won’t spoil the story for anyone new to this, but I can assure you it’s perfect material for Christmas: it has heart, personality, and plenty of tearjerking moments, and there’s a strong emphasis on family.

And if you’re not into historical fiction, don’t fear: the first trailer for Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding’s holiday rom-com, Last Christmas, apparently drops tonight, so I’ll probably review that too.

Trailer Rating: 10/10

“The Hundred-Foot Journey” Review!

Happy Bastille Day to all my French readers and viewers! I myself am not French nor of French descent (as far as I know, anyway), nor have I ever been to France, and I can’t even speak French.

Why, then, am I dedicating an entire blog post to the French holiday?

Simply because I have recently discovered a gem of a movie, a precious treasure that I have savored, and that must be shared with all of you. This film is The Hundred-Foot Journey, a beautiful film set in the wonderland of picturesque villages, open-air markets and sprawling vineyards and orchards that is rural France. And, parts of it also take place on Bastille Day, so that was all the connection I needed: I had to talk about this film eventually, so this seemed like the most natural place to do so. Allow me to explain why this film is necessary viewing – or, at least, why I feel that it is.

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The Hundred-Foot Journey is not a new film: it was released in 2014, had a small but comfortable box-office run, and received mixed reviews. We’ll discuss its problems, but first let’s talk about what makes the film so good, so juicy, so delectable. Let’s discuss why I’m using all these references to taste: the film is a love-letter to the culinary cultures of France and India; two very different cuisines wrapped up together in this bite-sized treat. It follows an Indian family emigrating to France, led by their stubborn patriarch, Papa Kadam (Om Puri), who is trying to set up a restaurant where his extraordinarily talented son Hassan (Manish Dayal) can start a career for himself. But when the family ends up, accidentally, in the small village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, they discover that their presence is unwelcome in the closely-knit community: a rival restaurateur by the name of Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) quickly makes it her business to make the village as hostile to the family as possible, in an attempt to save her own high-end dining establishment from competition. From there, the plot unfolds. There’s romance, drama, and a dash of light-hearted comedy, but it’s all just seasoning on the beautiful three-course meal that is this movie, or should I say – cinematic cookbook.

Technically, the third course is a little more sour than the first two, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s expand on the metaphor for a moment, and revel in the delights of French and Indian cuisine. I recommend that, if you take my suggestion and watch this film ASAP, you should have a delicious meal of your own prepared. It will make you very hungry, I can assure you of that: a film that can make a sea-urchin look like a mouthwatering morsel has done its job well. So well, in fact, that Hassan Kadam is apparently the third-greatest chef in movie history. From his family’s box of heirloom spices to the beautiful cookbooks lent to Hassan by his on-and-off love interest Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), the film is filled with constant reminders of more great meals to come, even when we’re not actually watching those meals being made – which is often. And each meal is different, depending on who’s making it and who’s eating it: we watch Papa and Hassan’s eyes fill with wonder as they are greeted by their first French dinner at Marguerite’s apartment, where the table is laden with some of the most beautiful cheeses you’ve ever seen; we witness the tension in Madame Mallory’s kitchen as she prepares a special meal for the President of France himself; we rejoice in Hassan’s naive first attempt to master the five basic sauces (which, if my sources are correct, are Béchamel, Velouté, Espagnole, Hollandaise and Sauce Tomat). The entire movie is centered around these quiet, intimate moments when the characters eat, with gusto and an almost holy reverence for what they are tasting. It’s the food that makes this movie so enjoyable – the idea that food is so important, so necessary, to people of all walks of life; to culture and community as well. It can bring people to tears as they recall the ghosts of flavors long forgotten, or it can spark passionate romance and thoughtful meditation. Wine, another staple of French cuisine, has a small part in igniting that romance, though it is largely absent from the hundred-foot journey that the Kadams travel.

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The journey is both physical and spiritual: a journey from one country to another, from one restaurant to another, from one lifestyle to another. Papa Kadam and Madame Mallory’s rival restaurants stand across the road from each other – a road exactly one-hundred feet in width (a fact that is sometimes hard to believe, considering how small the road looks at times). But the two bitter opponents have journeys of self-discovery to travel as well: obviously, I won’t spoil anything that happens in the movie, but there’s a good deal of change and inner turmoil. The rural village is not very accepting of the Indian newcomers, for one thing, and neither party savors the idea of uniting their distinctly separate culinary styles of art.

From a technical standpoint, the film has its fair share of good and bad, like any film. I mentioned that the first two acts of the film (or courses of the meal, if we’d like to extend the metaphor) are the best: the third act isn’t necessarily bad, but it feels very different from the first two – more mainstream, more distanced, more remote. Things are happening on the screen, but we, the audience, no longer feel quite as intimate with the cast (who are all outstanding). I personally think the last thirty minutes shouldn’t have tried to take the film on a completely different course than the one it had been following, up to that point, almost perfectly. Thankfully, the final scene rescues the ending and gives us one scrumptious aftertaste to hold onto, but there is definitely some difficulty getting to that point.

But the first two acts – lovely, sentimental, and enchanting, the very best appetizer and main course that you could ask for. The film also has an ever-so-slightly old-fashioned quality to it: until the final half-hour, it is softly lit and the dialogue is soft-spoken. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that this little indie dramedy was produced by Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, two giants of the mainstream entertainment industry. Unfortunately, big-name producers don’t always inspire interest from general audiences – James Cameron learned that with Alita: Battle Angel, and Spielberg/Winfrey presumably learned that with The Hundred-Foot Journey, which is sadly neglected, almost completely forgotten, in fact. I don’t even know what inspired me to choose it, almost at random, from a wide selection of films on Netflix – but I am so glad that I did.

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Hopefully, this post will inspire you to check it out for yourself, whether today, on this French national holiday, or any day of the year. I urge you to at least try it. I truly believe your life will be a little better for it.

Movie Rating: 9.4/10