#Alive [AKA #Saraitda] (2020, dir. Cho-Il Hyung)

A gamer teen is stranded in their high-rise apartment during a zombie outbreak. Clever, effective z-movie, adept at finding new ways to explore the sub-genre’s possibilities, and with some telling points to make about technology in everyday life. No game-changer, but offers definite evidence of afterlife in the undead.

Here’s the trailer:

James vs. His Future Self (2019, dir. Jeremy LaLonde)

A socially-awkward physicist is visited by a future version of himself. Smart little romantic comedy with SF elements. Crucially, it doesn’t overplay the time travel elements, but uses them to tell a straightforward but charming story. Recommended.

Here’s the trailer:

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015, dir. John Madden)

Sonny and Sunaina are to be married, but complications arise when an expansion plan is threatened. With the hotel residents’ stories pretty much told in the first movie, this sequel struggles to justify itself, lifting instead the plot of a Fawlty Towers episode. Still, fans won’t complain, plus Richard Gere twinkles in support.

Otherworld [AKA Harmony] (2018, dir. Corey Pearson)

A young woman has the power to remove fear from others, though at a cost to herself. First of an intended five-film sequence, this works as a modest standalone SF-tinged romance, though struggles to justify its running time in wider story and world-building terms.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011, dir. John Madden)

British senior citizens relocate to India, where they find themselves in a dilapidated retirement hotel. Slight but fun romantic comedy aimed directly at Mamma Mia! fans. A strong cast helps; the film decides this isn’t the place to schematically engage with the negative impacts of colonialism, going instead for crinkly and twinkly. A sequel soon followed.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020, dir. David Dobkin)

No-hoper Icelandic childhood best friends dream of winning Eurovision. Ferrell adapts his sports comedy template to fit, with generally appealing results. While it’s overlong and needs more jokes, everyone’s having fun, the musical parodies are good, and there are plenty of in-jokes and guest appearances for the faithful.

To Catch a Thief (1955, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)

A former jewel thief comes out of retirement when his Riviera lifestyle is threatened by a pretender. Glossy and deft romantic comedy with a few knowing touches, with a lighter touch than typical from its director, some still-impressive optical effects sequences aside. Happy to serve the daft conceit, the cast and crew relax and enjoy themselves.

Brief Encounter (1945, dir. David Lean)

Two otherwise-married people consider an affair. Deft romantic drama with its tongue partially in cheek in places; flirtations with film noir and German expressionism as well as with slice-of-life across-the-classes melodramatics.

You’ve Got Mail (1998, dir. Nora Ephron)

An independent bookshop owner and a corporate bookstore exec fall in love pseudonymously by email. Slick update of (among others) Lubitsch’s The Shop Around The Corner, though now a 90s period piece itself in respect of its tech, its fascination with bricks-and-mortar retail, and some of its assumptions.

The Shape of Water (2017, dir. Guillermo del Toro)

A mute cleaner falls in love with a humanoid aquatic creature being held in a government research laboratory. Dazzlingly confident romantic fantasy with SF/horror touches. Amelie meets The Creature From The Black Lagoon with a bit of Little Voice. Highly recommended.