Isn't It Romantic (2019) - Review

Synopsis: A young woman disenchanted with love mysteriously finds herself trapped inside a romantic comedy.
None Of The Feels.

Isn't It Romantic is quick to inform us that “Life is not a fairy tale.” When we first meet our leading lady Natalie, she is a young girl dreamily watching Richard Gere romance Julia Roberts and fantasizing about her own Prince Charming. Her cynical mother (a brief cameo by the always amazing Jennifer Saunders) soon dashes her hopes, bluntly informing her daughter that romantic comedies are a lie and that girls like her don’t get the happy ending. Why? They don’t look like Julia Roberts, that’s why. That’s it. That’s all it takes for Natalie to absorb her mother’s cynical view on love, and when we meet her again as a 30-something architect (played by Rebel Wilson), it’s clear her thoughts on love, and romantic comedies, has not changed.

Rather than designing fancy New York hotels, Natalie creates parking garages. She is close friends with her movie obsessed assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) and her encouraging colleague Josh (Adam Devine) while remaining oblivious to his subtle advances.

After catching Whitney watching The Wedding Singer at work, Natalie goes on a long diatribe listing out all of the reasons why romantic comedies are terrible, after which Whitney suggests Natalie be more open to people. Unfortunately, Natalie’s first attempt at taking her friend’s advice leads to her being mugged on the subway station where she hits her head and falls unconscious. When she wakes up, she’s in the hospital with a handsome doctor who can’t get over how beautiful she is. Yes, Natalie has woken up to find herself in the middle of a romantic comedy and she hates every minute of it. Her apartment is larger and exquisitely decorated. Her dog is clean and obeys her commands. Her real-world drug dealing neighbor Donny (Brandon Scott Jones) is now an unemployed flamboyantly gay man who exists solely to help Natalie navigate her perfect life. Oh, and she’s caught the eye of her firm’s wealthy, hunky client Blake (Liam Hemsworth) who, before her head trauma, assumed she was the coffee girl rather than an architect.

While New York now smells like lavender and has a soft, gorgeous filter, Natalie isn’t having any of it. She seeks help from Josh who seems keen to believe her tale, but they’re derailed by the sudden choking of yoga ambassador and swimsuit model Isabella (Priyanka Chopra). Josh saves her life and it’s love at first sight, leaving Natalie on her own to figure out how to get things back to normal. She realizes she needs to embrace the tropes now leading her journey and ultimately make a man fall in love with her. Cue the first date montage set to Annie Lennox.

You don’t have to be a fan of the genre to pick up on the cliches. They’re so painfully accurate while still laugh out loud funny. Most notably, the movie skewers the more problematic rom-com tropes, including the stereotypical gay sidekick who only seems to tone things down when he has some real heart to heart advice to give. There is also a distinct lack of diversity save for Chopra’s character and a minor character or two, but I could not tell you if that was yet another point the movie was trying to make or not.

Director Todd Strauss-Schulson crams as many rom-com tropes and sentimental homages into the film as he can, but he also effectively deals with a plus size protagonist while not making it a Thing itself. Natalie’s mother is frank about Natalie’s lack of appeal compared to the beautiful actresses on screen, which no doubt led to Natalie’s lack of self-confidence as an adult. As she explains to Josh, she feels invisible to attractive men. It’s clear her other co-workers see her as someone to push their tedious work off onto because she’s not assertive enough to tell them no. And the first time she decides to try and connect with a man, he mugs her.

It's meant as humor, but it's also a bit heartbreaking that in her rom-com world she marvels to Josh that men are finally looking her in the eyes. Natalie is very aware of her lot in life but thankfully she’s not treated like a joke. It’s refreshing that but for a brief mention of her build when she stops a food cart, there are no digs or jokes about her weight. She may be a bit of a pushover, but she’s also a gifted architect, kind and witty, and full of biting one-liners. A human being worthy of love just as all of the Julia Roberts of the world are. You see the kind of woman that Whitney and Josh can obviously see, even if Natalie is lacking the ability to do the same.

Yes, Isn’t It Romantic is satire, but it also slips into the tropes it has so much fun picking apart. Natalie’s journey of self-discovery and self-love is only aided by her budding feelings for Josh, and yes, the heartfelt advice from Donny. In the end, can she have everything that she’s always believed was so far from reach? Given this is a romantic comedy, what do you think?

I truly loved this movie. Rebel Wilson is such a natural performer and it was wonderful to see a film that really knew what to do with her comedic skill sets. She also shows her dramatic chops are on par with her humor and I sincerely hope to see her in more films as a leading lady, whether they be romantic comedies or not. Adam Devine continues to impress me. He has a quality to him that reminds me of a younger Tom Hanks mixed with a touch of a more restrained Jack Black. I loved him in his Netflix rom-com When We First Met, and in Isn’t It Romantic, he proved that he has longevity in these types of roles. Wilson and Devine’s chemistry remain on point, as evident and charming, and thankfully less outlandish, as it was in Pitch Perfect and its first sequel.

I found the weak link in Isn’t It Romantic to be Liam Hemsworth and Priyanka Chopra, but that’s by no fault of their own. Hemsworth is clearly having a lot of fun as the gorgeous yet dull love interest who can’t stop calling Natalie “beguiling”. Like his brother Chris, Liam has a comedic flare that drew a lot of the laughs. Chopra’s Isabella is exactly what you would expect from the gorgeous supermodel whose only purpose in the film is to be a romantic rival to the more likable protagonist. She’s the anti-Natalie, perfect in every way men probably fantasize about but without any real depth. Both characters are underwritten and one dimensional but I found that to be purposeful and part of the satire.

The screenplay was written by three women (Erin Cardillo, Dana Fox, and Kate Silberman) who have already made their mark in the world of romantic comedies. It’s clear that while they’re fans of the genre, they’re also well aware of its problems, even if those problems are dealt with by becoming a punchline. Isn’t It Romantic is a charming romantic comedy within a parody of a romantic comedy. It makes fun of the genre while simultaneously celebrating it, reminding us that yes, these movies are silly and wildly unrealistic, but for the most part, they just want to bring us joy and make us feel good. Honestly, in the depressing era of twenty-four hour news cycles, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to lose ourselves in an ideal world of cheesy romance and soundtracks full of saccharine.

Starring: Rebel Wilson, Liam Hemsworth, Adam Devine, Priyanka Chopra, Betty Gilpin, Brandon Scott Jones
Directed by: Todd Strauss-Schulson
Rated: PG-13
Watched: 02.15.2019
Fun Facts:
- Director Todd Strauss-Schulson watched 65 romantic-comedies over two weeks and noted the similar visual and narrative tropes found amongst them, in order to emulate them in his film.
- During test screenings, Rebel Wilson would wear a wig and sunglasses and sneak into the back to hear feedback from the audience.
- Rebel Wilson and Adam Devine had played love interests in Pitch Perfect, Pitch Perfect 2 and Workaholics.
- Due to using the song "Express Yourself", Madonna had to approve of the cast's singing prior to shooting.
Notable Song: 1000 Miles by Vanessa Carlton


Long Shot Trailer - New

Lionsgate has released the trailer for Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron's upcoming romantic comedy, Long Shot.

From Rotten Tomatoes: "He's a hard-hitting political writer with a talent for trouble. She's the country's top diplomat with a talent for...well, everything. When Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) reunites with his first crush who also happens to be the current US Secretary of State, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), he charms her with his self-deprecating humor and his memories of her youthful idealism. As she prepares to make a surprise run for the Oval Office, Charlotte hires Fred to punch up her campaign speeches and their unmistakable chemistry leads to a round-the-world affair. But Fred's carefree indiscretions, past and present, could bring down her campaign before it even begins. The film redefines "international relations" with a profane, funny and unexpected love.)."

Directed by Jonathan Levine and starring Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron, Long Shot is due to be released May 3rd.


Liberal Arts (2012) - Review

Synopsis: When 30-something Jesse returns to his alma mater for a professor's retirement party, he falls for Zibby, a college student, and is faced with a powerful attraction that springs up between them.

Sometimes students make the best teachers.

Jesse (Josh Radnor, who also serves as writer and director) works at an admissions office in a New York City college when he receives a phone call from one of his old college professors in Ohio, inviting Jesse back home to attend his retirement party. Recently dumped and eager to get out of the bland routine of accepting/denying applicants at his job, Jesse agrees. After the nostalgic giddiness of returning to his alma mater, Jesse meets Libby (Elizabeth Olsen), a nineteen-year-old student who is perhaps too emotionally mature for her young age, and yet at the same time, not emotionally mature enough. Jesse and Libby connect during his brief stay in Ohio and vow to remain in touch, exchanging handwritten letters to one another while Jesse begins to see New York in a new, happier light thanks to Libby's Opera-infused compilation she gave him before parting ways. Their connection deepens, leading Libby to invite Jesse to come to visit her. This is where things get a bit sticky.

There is an icky factor to the budding romance. Jesse is thirty-five. Libby is nineteen. There is a sixteen year age difference and Jesse is well aware of the potential consequences of dating such a younger woman. In fact, one of the movie's funniest scenes comes with Jesse attempting to figure out just when in their lives the ickiness factor disappears. Clearly, it's an issue now, but when he's eighty-seven and she's seventy-one? Okay, well that works. The hopeful optimism on his face is enough to induce a giggle, but you feel his need to make sure he's not actually a creep.

While Jesse clearly has sincere feelings for Libby, it's pretty evident that being around her is like feeling nineteen all over again, which is what Jesse is really striving for. As Libby tells him, he's romanticizing youth, though it takes a while for Jesse to realize that she's probably right. Radnor is pretty affable in his role as Jesse. He is pretty adept at playing the nice guy, patient as he tries to carefully navigate through the emotions of everyone he comes into contact with. But Jesse has moments where he borderlines on pretentious and this is especially evident when he takes Libby to task for liking a trilogy of cheesy vampire novels (which I assume was a dig at Twilight given the vague references and the fact that the book Jesse decides to read to prove his vitriol is well deserved is called 'Amber Moon'). They spend a great deal of time arguing over this, and I have to admit, I sided with Libby on this argument. Things shouldn't have to be critically acclaimed for people to enjoy them. As she points out to Jesse, "You think it's cool to hate things and it's not, it's boring."

I honestly haven't seen Elizabeth Olsen in much beyond the Marvel films where she plays Scarlet Witch. But I do enjoy her as an actress, and I loved her in the role of Libby. She felt more real to me than most of the other characters who borderline on being horribly cliche. Olsen adds brightness to every scene she's in and she gracefully balances Libby's emotional maturity with her lingering naiveté about life. Her character could have come across as annoyingly worldly and wise for a nineteen-year-old, but Olsen is so genuine that it's entirely believable that she may actually know more about living than Radnor does. I found myself wishing she had more screen time because it felt like the movie dragged a bit when she wasn't interacting with Radnor.

The characters also fit some obvious tropes. Richard Jenkins is a newly retired professor terrified of what 'old age' means and desperate to return to work (although he had one of my favorite lines in the movie - "Any place you don't leave is a prison"). Zac Efron feels out of place and a bit pointless as the campus hippie stoner who shows up to be weird and shower Jesse with what I assume is meant to be sage advice but only comes across as stupid. John Magaro is the suicidal genius who, of course, loves David Foster Wallace and Elizabeth Reaser is a bland bookstore owner named Ana who appears briefly, in the beginning, to make eyes at Radnor's Jesse before we meet up with her again near the conclusion so she can wax poetic about how she loves books so much that she only loves trees because they give her books - ugh, come on. Stop. We get it. Libby loves young adult vampire novels so she's bad. Ana loves the books Jesse loves so she's good. Cue eye roll.

Other than Olsen, my favorite part of this movie was Alison Janney. She's fabulous in every role, and she has a small one here as another one of Jesse's former professors whom he quite obviously had, and has, a crush on. She's pointed and takes no bullshit, nor does she take any pleasure in Jesse's love and respect of her class, and all the ways it 'opened him up'. I think her performance really salvaged what could have been an overdone storyline of the older, sexy professor who has grown too hard from life to care about anyone or anything. Blah, blah, blah. Thank goodness for Alison Janney.

Radnor shows promise as a filmmaker and Liberal Arts is a movie I don't regret watching. I just couldn't figure out what the narrative was. It shoots off into so many directions that by the end, I wasn't really that invested in what became of Jesse.

Starring: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Elizabeth Reaser, Zac Efron, Richard Jenkins, Alison Janney, John Magaro
Directed by: Josh Radnor
Rated: PG-13
Watched: 02.14.2019
Fun Facts:
- The book Jesse discusses with Dean in the coffee house and hospital is David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest".
- A lot of the movie was filmed at Kenyon College in Ohio, where Radnor and co-star Janney are both alumni.
Notable Song: Favorite Song by Kaiser Cartel


Silver Linings Playbook (2012) - Review

Synopsis: After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

Watch For The Signs.

After discovering his wife's affair, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) ends up in a psychiatric hospital for eight months to work on getting his mental health under control (and to avoid a serious criminal charge after nearly beating the other man to death). Once he's back home with his parents, Pat begins to reach out to her, despite this being a violation of the restraining order she's taken out against him. He soon meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), the sister of one of Nikki's friends. Tiffany is also a widow, having lost her husband recently in an accident. When Tiffany offers to help Pat get a letter to his estranged wife, he agrees to dance with her in a local competition. Things come to a head when Pat's father, Patrizio (Robert De Niro), places a high-risk parlay bet on a football game, along with Pat and Tiffany's success in the dancing competition.

Jennifer Lawrence is one of those actresses that I've generally enjoyed watching in nearly every movie I've seen her in. But I admit I have a soft spot for Tiffany. Brutally honest and self-aware, Tiffany projects the kind of strength that almost dares those around her to challenge it, and yet regardless of her demeanor, Lawrence is able to project such emotion with a mere look that you can almost physically feel the pain she's going through.

Bradley Cooper is sure to be robbed of the Best Actor Oscar this coming month for A Star Is Born, but I admit I feel like his performance here as Pat is far superior to Jackson Maine (I know, I know. That may be considered blasphemous to many, and I get it!). Struggling with his bipolar disorder, it's clear Pat doesn't really consider himself to be mentally unstable. At least not as much as Tiffany. He's in complete denial that his marriage may actually be over because now he's been doing the things Nikki wanted from him when they together.

It would be easy to call Pat naive, but he's not. Yes, he's in denial, but Cooper is so brilliant in conveying Pat's pure need to hold onto any semblance of hope even as he reads off the long list of changes he's made or is in the process of making, to win Nikki back. He can't admit to himself that Nikki isn't coming back, because that would set him off the deep end again, and he wants so desperately to stay grounded. Pat can be rude and insulting, excusing his behavior by claiming he "has no filter". He is a ticking bomb ready to explode at any second (and he does a couple of times), but you still root for him. Cooper is so damn likable in this movie, even when he's saying "inappropriate" things, like bluntly asking Tiffany when they first meet how her husband died. It's cringy, but also weirdly endearing.

While we don't see much of Tiffany's family beyond her controlling, icy sister Veronica (Julia Stiles) and a brief moment or two with her irritable parents, we get a very intimate look at Pat's dysfunctional clan. His father Patrizio wants to open a restaurant and has turned to illegal bookmaking to make it a reality. De Niro is fantastic here, exasperating, but sympathetic, even when he's unfairly blaming his son after a catastrophic Eagles loss. It's clear Patrizio suffers from (probably undiagnosed) OCD, which often puts him in conflict with Pat, but there is affection between father and son as well. The scenes between De Niro and Cooper are some of my favorite in the movie. Jacki Weaver is also wonderful in an emotionally nuanced role as Dolores, the long-suffering wife and mother. She is really the only voice of reason in this entire movie, but it's often lost in the mania surrounding the rest of her family.

The entire cast shines in this movie. It's extremely well acted, and it doesn't seem to matter who is on screen at any given moment, you feel a familiarity and believability there that these people have been friends and family their entire lives. One thing I also appreciated about the movie is the romance did not feel forced or even idyllic. Tiffany and Pat are two imperfect people fighting their own personal demons, and yet it's those demons that draw them together in the first place. It's messy and complicated, but they're exactly what the other needs.

The downside to the film is that while it tackles the subject of mental illness, it never really goes full throttle and instead loses steam once Tiffany and Pat begin their dance rehearsals. Obviously, Silver Linings Playbook wasn't meant to be a movie about mental illness, but it certainly played a significant role in the beginning of the movie as Pat tries to adjust to being back home after settling into a routine at the psychiatric hospital. I suppose it's easy to see how one can benefit from hope and the promise of a happy future, but a part of me feels like Pat and Tiffany's personal problems were swept under the rug a bit to focus more on their budding romance.

That being said, I found Silver Linings Playbook to be edgy and captivating. Well paced and well acted with marvelous performances by Lawrence and Cooper. Not a typical rom-com by any means (psst, this is totally a rom-com), but that's what makes it so darn good.

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, Julia Stiles
Directed by: David O. Russell
Rated: R
Watched: 02.12.2019
Fun Facts:
- Anne Hathaway was cast as Tiffany but had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts.
- The role of Tiffany earned Jennifer Lawrence her second Oscar nomination for Best Actress, as well as her first win.
- Silver Linings Playbook was the first movie since Reds (1981) to earn acting nominations in all four acting categories.
- David O. Russell initially thought Lawrence was too young to play Tiffany but changed his mind after her audition in which he claims the "expressiveness in her eyes and in her face" was "ageless".
- In the earliest stages of getting the movie made, Russell had originally wanted Vince Vaughn and Zooey Deschanel to star.
Notable Song: My Cherie Amour by Stevie Wonder


91st Academy Award Predictions

The 91st Academy Awards will be airing in two weeks on Sunday, February 24th. In 2018, the only real hope in the rom-com genre to be recognized by the Academy was Crazy Rich Asians, but sadly the movie was completely shut out when the nominations were announced. That being said, I still have some thoughts on what is nominated. So below are my predictions of what will win and what I wish would win. If I didn't include 'Want to Win', it's because I haven't seen enough of the films to make an informed decision.

Best Picture
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite - Want to Win
Green Book
Roma - Will Win
A Star Is Born

Lead Actor
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born - Want to Win
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody - Will Win (ugh)
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Lead Actress
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife - Will Win
Olivia Colman, The Favourite - Want to Win
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Supporting Actor
Mahershala Ali, Green Book - Will Win
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman - Want to Win
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice

Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk - Will Win
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite - Want to Win

Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite - Want to Win
Alfonso Cuarón, Roma - Will Win
Adam McKay, Vice

Animated Feature
Incredibles 2, Brad Bird
Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson
Mirai, Mamoru Hosoda
Ralph Breaks the Internet, Rich Moore, Phil Johnston
Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse, Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman - Will Win/Want to Win!

Animated Short
Animal Behaviour, Alison Snowden, David Fine
Bao, Domee Shi - Will Win
Late Afternoon, Louise Bagnall
One Small Step, Andrew Chesworth, Bobby Pontillas
Weekends, Trevor Jimenez

Adapted Screenplay
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Joel Coen , Ethan Coen
BlacKkKlansman, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee - Will Win
Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty
If Beale Street Could Talk, Barry Jenkins - Want to Win
A Star Is Born, Eric Roth, Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters

Original Screenplay
The Favourite, Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara - Will Win
First Reformed, Paul Schrader - Want to Win
Green Book, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
Vice, Adam McKay

Cold War, Lukasz Zal
The Favourite, Robbie Ryan
Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón - Will Win
A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique - Want to Win

Best Documentary Feature
Free Solo, Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi - Will Win
Hale County This Morning, This Evening, RaMell Ross
Minding the Gap, Bing Liu
Of Fathers and Sons, Talal Derki
RBG, Betsy West, Julie Cohen

Best Documentary Short Subject
Black Sheep, Ed Perkins - Will Win
End Game, Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Lifeboat, Skye Fitzgerald
A Night at the Garden, Marshall Curry
Period. End of Sentence., Rayka Zehtabchi

Best Live Action Short Film
Detainment, Vincent Lambe
Fauve, Jeremy Comte
Marguerite, Marianne Farley
Mother, Rodrigo Sorogoyen
Skin, Guy Nattiv - Will Win

Best Foreign Language Film
Capernaum (Lebanon)
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico) - Will Win
Shoplifters (Japan)

Film Editing
BlacKkKlansman, Barry Alexander Brown - Want to Win
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Ottman
Green Book, Patrick J. Don Vito
The Favourite, Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Vice, Hank Corwin - Will Win

Sound Editing
Black Panther, Benjamin A. Burtt, Steve Boeddeker
Bohemian Rhapsody, John Warhurst
First Man, Ai-Ling Lee, Mildred Iatrou Morgan
A Quiet Place, Ethan Van der Ryn, Erik Aadahl - Will Win/Want to Win
Roma, Sergio Diaz, Skip Lievsay

Sound Mixing
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man - Will Win/Want to Win
A Star Is Born

Production Design
Black Panther, Hannah Beachler - Will Win
First Man, Nathan Crowley, Kathy Lucas
The Favourite, Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton - Want to Win
Mary Poppins Returns, John Myhre, Gordon Sim
Roma, Eugenio Caballero, Bárbara Enrı́quez

Original Score
BlacKkKlansman, Terence Blanchard
Black Panther, Ludwig Goransson - Will Win
If Beale Street Could Talk, Nicholas Britell - Want to Win
Isle of Dogs, Alexandre Desplat
Mary Poppins Returns, Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman

Original Song
All The Stars from Black Panther
I’ll Fight from RBG
The Place Where Lost Things Go from Mary Poppins Returns
Shallow from A Star Is Born - Will Win/Want to Win
When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Makeup and Hair (where the f*ck is The Favourite?)
Mary Queen of Scots
Vice - Will Win

Costume Design
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Mary Zophres
Black Panther, Ruth E. Carter
The Favourite, Sandy Powell - Will Win/Want to Win
Mary Poppins Returns, Sandy Powell
Mary Queen of Scots, Alexandra Byrne

Visual Effects
Avengers Infinity War - Will Win
Christopher Robin
First Man - Want to Win
Ready Player One
Solo A Star Wars Story


10 Movies to Watch If You Love Valentine's Day

Let's admit it, Valentine's Day is a polarizing holiday. Depending on who you are, it can be a day of romance and roses, or it can feel contrived and commercialized. Regardless of how you plan on spending the day, I've compiled a list of ten corny, heartwarming romantic comedies to indulge in. And if you hate Valentine's Day? Well, there's a list for you too!

Say Anything (1989)
After their high school graduation, sensitive and noble Lloyd Dobbler sets out to win the heart of his dream girl, valedictorian good girl Diane Court. John Cusack and Ione Skye are magic together in this coming of age romance, complete with the iconic boom box scene and Peter Gabriel's swoon-worthy In Your Eyes.

Sleepless In Seattle (1993)
A year after the death of his mom, young Jonah Baldwin calls into a Seattle radio show lamenting that his lonely dad Sam (Tom Hanks) needs a new wife. After hearing Sam on the radio, Annie (Meg Ryan) feels drawn to the widower and writes him a letter asking him to meet her at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine's Day.

The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Tracy (Katherine Hepburn) is about to walk down the aisle for a second time when she happens to cross paths with both her ex-husband (Cary Grant) and a tabloid reporter (Jimmy Stewart), leading Tracy to question who she is, what she wants and who she truly loves. A classic rom-com love triangle with three iconic legends.

My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)
Julianne Potter (Julia Roberts) and her best friend Michael (Dermot Mulroney) made a pact to marry if they're both still single at 28. But just before her 28th birthday, Michael tells Julianne he's engaged to Kimmy (Cameron Diaz), a beautiful, perky blonde. Jealousy takes hold and Julianne plots to break up the wedding and take the groom for herself.

Before Sunrise (1995)
Jesse (Ethan Hawke), an American on his way to Vienna, meets Celine (Julie Delpy) on his train. She's headed for Paris, but the two forge a surprising connection, leading Jesse to convince her to get off the train with him Vienna, both of them aware that this is likely to be their only night spent together before parting ways. This sweet romance was the first in the Before Trilogy, followed by Before Sunset and Before Midnight.

Set It Up (2018)
Two overworked assistants, Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell), work together to get their demanding bosses off their backs by setting them up with each other. From co-conspirators to friends to maybe something more, the chemistry between Harper and Glen helped make Set It Up one of the genre's rare highlights of the past few years.

While You Were Sleeping (1995)
A lonely woman named Lucy (Sandra Bullock) saves her crush (Peter Gallagher) from an oncoming train and a misunderstanding that follows has his family believing they're engaged. While he lies in a coma, Lucy begins to fall for his brother Jack (Bill Pullman) instead. Sweet, funny and romantic with a hilarious supporting cast.

Definitely, Maybe (2008)
Will (Ryan Reynolds) is in the midst of a divorce when his daughter Maya (Abigail Breslin) asks him to tell her the story of how he met her mother. Will's tale includes three very beautiful, very enchanting women who have affected his life in very different ways. But the question remains, which of Will's three greatest loves is Maya's mother?

The Shop Around The Corner (1940)
Alfred (Jimmy Stewart) and Klara (Margaret Sullivan) are employees at a general store in Budapest. They're constantly butting heads and at odds with one another. They're also completely unaware that they're each other's pen pals, whom they're both incredibly enamored with. A charming, funny romance that inspired 1998's You've Got Mail.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)
What 'must watch' list would be complete without When Harry Met Sally? One of the genre's best, WHMS tells the tale of two strangers (Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal) who share a contentious car ride from Chicago to New York, and then over the course of the next decade form a friendship laden with romantic tension. The true question here is, can two friends sleep together and still be friends in the morning? This movie is close to perfection.

Hate Valentine's Day? I've got you covered there too! Below are five anti-Valentine's Day films to curl up on the couch and enjoy.

The Break Up (2006)
When Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and Gary (Vince Vaughn) call it quits, neither is willing to move out of their condo. After mean spirited revenge tactics fail to get the other to concede defeat, Brooke and Gary resort to becoming hostile roommates instead.

The First Wives Club (1996)
After a friend commits suicide over her ex-husband's new marriage to a younger woman, three women (Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, and Bette Midler) reunite and make a pact to get revenge on their own exes for taking them for granted and treating them poorly.

Fatal Attraction (1987)
Despite being happily married, Dan (Michael Douglas) has a one night stand with a sexy book editor (Glenn Close) who becomes increasingly and dangerously unstable after Dan jilts her.

Nappily Ever After (2018)
Not entirely anti-love, but after a mishap at the salon and a botched birthday party where she expected a proposal from her longtime boyfriend, Violet (Sanaa Lathan) finds herself single and confused about where her life is supposed to go next. A great dramedy about finding purpose without the perfect man, or the perfect hair.

The War of the Roses (1989)
Like The Break Up, after a couple decides to split up, both fight for ownership of their grand home, leading to a brutally vicious battle that leaves their home, and family, in shambles. A dark comedy about the perfect marriage gone wrong.


What Men Want (2019) - Review

Synopsis: A woman is boxed out by the male sports agents in her profession, but gains an unexpected edge over them when she develops the ability to hear men's thoughts.

She Can Hear Men's Thoughts. Let the Games Begin.

In 2000, Nancy Meyers's film about a chauvinistic, womanizing ad exec who finds himself with the ability to read women's minds became a box office hit, raking in nearly $182 million dollars ($378m worldwide) and What Women Want became the highest grossing romantic comedy of all time until My Big Fat Greek Wedding dethroned it two years later.

Nineteen years later we're given What Men Want, a gender-swapping remake that finds Taraji P. Henson as overachieving, ball busting sports agent Ali (named after boxer Muhammad Ali) Davis on the verge of being made a partner within her male-dominated sports agency. Predictably, she's passed over for an undeserving colleague simply because most of her clients are women rather than athletes who dominate in the big three (MLB, NFL and NBA). After confronting her boss over the slight, she's told to stay in her lane, because it's what she's good at. Using this offense as fuel, Ali becomes determined to sign Jamal Barry (Shane Paul McGhie), the projected number one pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Unfortunately, Barry comes with an eccentric, greedy, ego-driven father (Tracy Morgan) who calls himself Joe Dollar. He also calls all the shots for Jamal's future, making Ali's goal a bit more difficult.

That is until she drinks some dirty tea from a weed dealing psychic (a scenery chewing Erykah Badu) on the night of her friend's bachelorette party and proceeds to knock herself out dancing at a club. When she wakes up she realizes she has the ability to read men's thoughts. After the subsequent freak out, Ali realizes she may be able to use her newfound ability to successfully court Jamal and his father while discovering just why her male colleagues continue to railroad her promotion.

While Mel Gibson's character was a jerk that needed women's thoughts to help him get in touch with his feminine side in What Women Want, Ali is much more likable, her tough exterior understandable given her work environment and the fact that she was raised by a single father who surrounded her with sports. Ali believes she needs to be ruthless and unrelenting to succeed, and while on one hand that is probably true, she begins to realize some of her male colleagues think she's the male equivalent of a dick. You can tell this begins to unsettle Ali, especially when her behavior starts to strain her relationship with not only her friends (played by Phoebe Robinson, Tamala Jones, and Wendi McLendon-Covey), but with her new romantic interest Will (Aldis Hodge), a single father who Ali was initially using as her fake husband to impress Joe Dollar but then of course began to have real feelings for when she realizes - or rather, hears - how much he actually adores her.

Director Adam Shankman delivers a movie that is determined to straddle the line between outlandish and heartfelt, but instead it just feels muddled and disjointed. The comedy is raunchy and silly and there aren't many genuine laughs. Tracy Morgan essentially plays his character Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock, and Pete Davidson shows up as a closeted gay employee whose only purpose seems to be thinking about dick and saying ”fuck” a lot on the phone. Nearly every thought Ali hears from the men around her is vulgar, idiotic or nonsensical. Basically, exactly what you would expect in a movie like this.

I found Henson to be the film's only saving grace. She brings a radiance and strength to the role of Ali, not to mention the kind of likability that was most definitely needed, especially towards the end of the film when Ali uses her gift in a cringe-worthy, mean-spirited moment disguised as the spirit of telling the truth. The underlying theme here is: What is the responsibility of someone who finds themselves in Ali's position? Do they have an obligation to reveal some difficult truths? It's an interesting question, but unfortunately the answer is barely dealt with.

Ultimately, Ali doesn't need to learn to be more feminine, or more accessible to men. She just needs to learn how to empower herself without the approval of the men in her life, and to let her guard down and be open to the idea that she can succeed on her own, rather than depending on being a part of the boy's club.

I enjoyed What Men Want for Henson's performance and some brief, fun moments, but other than that, the movie is just a cookie cutter rom-com trying to project a deeper message and failing.

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Tracy Morgan, Aldis Hodge, Max Greenfield, Josh Brener, Richard Roundtree, Brian Bosworth
Directed by: Adam Shankman
Rated: R
Watched: 02.07.2019
Fun Facts:
- The gender swap spin off of What Women Want starring Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt.
Notable Song: Push It by Salt-N-Pepa