Palm Springs (2020, dir. Max Barbakow)

A man is resigned to being stuck in a temporal loop at a wedding. Solid SF/fantasy comedy with sharp edges. Smart playing, a fine soundtrack, and enough diversion from the Groundhog Day template all helps, as does a pleasingly amoral streak. JK Simmons and Dale Dickey are along for the ride.

Here’s the trailer.

Christmas Eve (2015, dir. Mitch Davis)

After an accident, six New York elevators halt: their occupants are forced to know each other – and themselves – better. Contrived and clumsy festive ensemble movie: an unsubtle Christian message delivered via what’s meant to be Richard Curtis-style whimsy. Some moments work nevertheless.

Here’s the trailer.

Pompeii (2014, dir. Paul WS Anderson)

A vengeful gladiator and a young noblewoman find love against the odds in 1st century Italy. Cheesy disaster-themed tosh (though never quite camp, Kiefer Sutherland’s panto villain aside), mashing up Titanic and Gladiator to cliched CG-tastic effect. A medium-budget B-movie, and unashamedly so.

Here’s the trailer.

After Midnight [AKA Something Else] (2019, dir. Jeremy Gardner & Christian Stella)

Struggling with the breakup of a long-term relationship, a man is visited nightly by a monster. Smart romantic drama/horror hybrid, with lots going for it in a lo-fi indie kinda way. Makes you wonder what Gardner and Co will come up with next. Recommended.

Here’s the trailer.

#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.