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Showing posts with the label Romance

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

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I think I've watched this movie at least three times since the creation of this blog simply to reconsider whether or not it qualified as a Christmas movie (this is, of course, in addition to countless viewings growing up - this is one of my mother's favorite movies, so it was on a lot). Because this is more a New Year's movie than a Christmas one, it never quite passed our litmus test, which I always regretted, since this movie - in my humble opinion - absolutely rules. Well, now we consider New Year's an extension of Christmas (since, you know, it is), so the question's moot, and we can talk about one of the most iconic romantic comedies made in the last four decades. The story, of course, centers around Billy Crystal's Harry and Meg Ryan's Sally, both of whom are awkward and somewhat off-putting. They come across to the audience as eccentric and likeable for the duration of the film, but the movie succeeds in making you doubt you'd enjoy hanging out w

Just Friends (2005)

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Just Friends is one of several Christmas comedies from the first decade of the millennia that's been largely forgotten, and in this case, it's not hard to understand why. The premise is largely built around the concept of the "friend zone", a somewhat misogynistic idea popularized in the mid-'90s that - for reasons that continue to elude me - someone thought would make a good basis for a movie a decade later. The story centers on Chris, played by Ryan Reynolds, who grew up in New Jersey, where he was humiliated in high school due to being overweight. His best friend was Jamie, a girl he secretly pined over for years. I should note the movie opens with an extended sequence set during this time that involves Reynolds in a fat suit. We'll come back to this. Jump ahead to Christmas ten years later. Chris has lost weight, he has a high-paying job as a record producer in LA, and his love life is a series of dates with models. But of course, he still pines for Jamie,

Santa Girl (2019)

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A minute or two into Santa Girl, I remarked to Lindsay that I'd seen student films with better production values. Ten minutes later, we paused the movie to check whether it actually was a student film. The answer is somehow both no and yes. Santa Girl was produced through a partnership with Shenandoah University. I'm still a little unclear on the specifics, but Shenandoah boasts the majority of the cast and crew are students . It shows! I was honestly a little surprised to learn the movie wasn't written or directed by students, too. Let's talk plot. The story is centered on Cassie Claus, daughter of Santa, reimagined as a calculating, business-oriented yuletide CEO. Cassie is betrothed to the son of Jack Frost, because the house of Santa requires their patronage in order to... Wait. Is this going for a corporate thing or a medieval royalty vibe? Both! Probably should have picked one, because the mixture comes off as incoherent. Regardless, Cassie isn't happy about h

A Castle for Christmas (2021)

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So you're here. That probably means one of the following things is true: You're curious about this movie You've seen it and want someone to confirm or challenge your opinion of it You're one of the handful of friends who still read every article (Hi!) You enjoy our often-sardonic over-the-top reviews/takedowns of rom-coms If you're in the final category, I should warn you that, unlike Erin, I didn't...hate...this one. Now, that doesn't mean it wasn't bad. Because it was. It was badly written, bizarrely shot (although we postulated while watching that some of that may have been pandemic-related), and overall mediocre.  You already know if you're the kind of person who likes these movies. If painfully obvious tropes don't give you stress headaches, and you don't give a fig for linguistic or cultural accuracy as long as there are two reasonably charming characters and a happily ever after, then you've probably already seen it.  I, myself, a

The Family Man (2000)

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I have no recollection of this movie ever existing, and honestly that surprises me. It's not so much that this deserves to be remembered - aside from a few solid performances, a couple decent moments, and a score from Danny Elfman, it's got very little going for it - but it's kind of amazing a Christmas movie starring Nicholas Cage, Téa Leoni, and Don Cheadle could gross more that 100 million dollars then just get swallowed up and forgotten. It makes a little more sense when we enter the director into the equation: this was made by Brett Ratner, whose reputation as Hollywood's least interesting filmmaker has been overshadowed by numerous accusations of sexual assault and harassment. The Family Man is the story of Jack (Nicholas Cage), a successful businessman who broke up with Kate (Téa Leoni) years before in a formulaic prologue set in an airport. Jack thinks he's happy, and he seems to have everything. That's until Christmas Eve, when he witnesses Don Cheadle

Period of Adjustment (1962)

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The bare premise of this film - two couples in crisis nearly separate on Christmas Eve but finally reconcile - could be a Hallmark movie. In practice, it's something much more unusual and uneven.  The movie is based on a play by Tennesee Williams. A bit of research tells me that he wrote it as a "serious comedy," partially in response to criticism that his works were too dark. It's been a while since I've studied any of his plays, but the man isn't exactly known for happy endings, and it shows here. These are deeply unhappy people, each with their own neuroses, and it seems unlikely that these "happy-ending" reconciliations are for the long term.  The movie opens with a montage without dialogue showing the whirlwind romance of a nurse (Isabel) and one of the young veterans under her care (George). She realizes that she has made a terrible mistake when a hearse (a "great car" according to George) appears as their honeymoon vehicle, and thing

Holidate (2020)

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Recently, I've noticed a change in the way I watch and think about movies. I'm fairly certain that several movies I've watched over the past month would have received a far less charitable review even a year ago, but now... I don't know. I think I've been growing as a person, and my perspective's shifted. When something doesn't work for me, I've become more likely to dig deeper for elements that were well constructed; I've become more interested in seeking out aspects of competent filmmaking than in ripping apart something I dislike, even if I think it's bad. Fortunately, I think sitting through this pile of shit cured me, because I'm feeling nothing but disgust right now. Kind of refreshing, if I'm being honest. Holidate is a romantic comedy about two people who meet in a mall while returning terrible Christmas presents and agree to become each others' "holidate" for the following year - in other words, they go out essentia

Love Hard (2021)

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I want to start off by saying clearly and for the record: I hate this movie. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "But, Erin, you hate a lot of movies you watch here." Maybe. But this... this is different. I hate this deeply, completely, and profoundly. I hate that this movie employs uncomfortable circumstances constantly throughout its runtime. I hate that it utilizes the absolute most tired '80s tropes shamelessly (this thing features both an over-sexed grandma and a scene where the main character juggles multiple dates at the same time and venue). I hate that it integrates pop-culture debates about Die Hard, Love Actually, and Baby, It's Cold Outside so shallowly, it feels like the discussions were stolen verbatim from Twitter arguments. And I really hate that one of the romantic leads - and the story as a whole - are a hair's breadth away from being a manifesto for incels. But most of all I really, deeply, truly hate that this thing... is actu

Holiday Affair (1949)

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The question I most often confront when looking at old romantic comedies is how much of a curve I should grade them on when it comes to overlooking both the use of now cliched tropes and pervasive sexism. Is Holiday Affair good? Well, depending on whether we mean "good for 1949" or "good for 2020," we'll reach distinctly different conclusions. This movie aged... well, fine, relative to most of its contemporaries (or at least the ones I can think of). But it's still dated in ways I found difficult to ignore. I'm not sure if anyone's put together a comprehensive taxonomy for the genre yet, but Holiday Affair would be classified with modern entries like Sleepless in Seattle. The "will they/won't they" tension is built around an illusionary question of whether the character will take a risk for love or settle for the more readily available partner/human obstacle. Really, this is all an update of the old "marry for love or money" c

The Christmas Setup (2020)

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This year saw a seismic shift in Christmas romantic comedies, which had been almost universally heteronormative (the possible exception being Carol , assuming you're willing to use an incredibly forgiving definition of "Christmas movie" and the classic definition of "comedy"). Gay characters have certainly appeared in other Christmas rom-coms, but until 2020, we didn't really see them presented as romantic leads. Depending on how you want to define "Christmas rom-com," this is either the second or third such new movie we've seen, and there's at least one more we didn't get to. That's obviously a great step, though I feel like the impact is undercut by how absurdly late it is. Sitcoms were willing to feature gay characters back in the '90s. By now, you can find representation in cartoon shows. Movies, both driven by big studios and made-for-TV, are behind the times. Still, it's nice to see them taking those first steps. The C

A New York Christmas Wedding (2020)

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A New York Christmas Wedding opens with narration that feels cribbed from Love Actually and informs you right off the bat there's magic heaven-stuff going on. It introduces some characters who get in an argument, then it leaps ahead twenty years and starts throwing exposition at you to catch you up, letting you know two of the three characters you just met are dead. I found myself pitying actors as they recited dialogue that would have been cut from a soap opera... A question dawned on me: were they doing this on purpose? Were they trying to make something so astonishingly bad it becomes a cult favorite? Were they trying to make a Christmas version of The Room? But as the movie started layering its message, it became apparent the opposite was true. Someone believed in this. They were trying. They wanted to make a good movie... I feel bad about this. I'm no stranger to honestly discussing astonishingly bad movies, but they're typically studio productions where the creatives

12 Dates of Christmas (2011)

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I find this movie somewhat perplexing, and not because the premise is a knockoff of Groundhog Day, complete with unexplained temporal paradox. What's weird about this campy made-for-TV romcom is... it's kind of good. Don't get too excited - it's only mostly kind of good; there's still quite a bit that just isn't . Either someone turned in a screenplay too good for the format, and a third got rewritten into schlock, or someone rewrote two-thirds of a schlocky screenplay and forgot to fix the rest. I have no clue which. Granted, that's a hell of a lot better than what you'd expect for an ABC Family Christmas flick. The plot centers on Kate, a woman pining over her ex and planning to try and reconnect for the holidays. Meanwhile, her stepmother has set her up on a blind date, and Kate feels obligated to put in a brief appearance. Before we follow her through her first iteration of interactions with a random cast of people, she briefly faints in a department

Book Review: Tudor Christmas Tidings

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Tudor Christmas Tidings Blythe Gifford, Jenni Fletcher, Amanda McCabe, 2020 This is a new book, but I did not get a copy through NetGalley for review, because Harlequin's standards for reviewers are apparently higher than this website.  Three holiday-themed historical romance novellas. I decided to give this a try when I saw it was available through my local library. I've been more interested in romance this year than previously, but my time could probably have been better spent.  Christmas at Court by Blythe Gifford I did not expect this to go into history as fast and hard as it did. The novella provided very little background information about the politics of the time, but the plot hinged on those same politics. Eventually, I was driven, ashamed, to Wikipedia to refresh my knowledge of Richard III and Henry Tudor.  The main characters in this one (Alice and John) are heirs to important noble houses, and they are semi-secretly betrothed by their parents to seal an alliance bet