Movie Review: The Fate of the Furious (2017)

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Plot:When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before.

I am quite the big fan of the Fast and Furious franchise. I reviewed the entire series a while ago, and naturally the mere mention of the return of Dominic Toretto and his family was enough to get me excited. These movies have become progressively bigger and more extreme as the series developed, and the Fate of The Furious makes no exception.

To be honest, this is the first film that I felt was overly ridiculous. It has always been very ridiculous with this franchise, but this one went very extra. The “banter” between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham made my toes curl with embarrassment. Seriously – the testosterone these two emit in each other’s presence was nothing short of hilarious. Dwayne Johnson had some pretty funny lines as a school soccer coach, and his desperation in having his girls win the game to avoid a Tay-Tay concert was quite funny and understandable. Fast 8 tries to market Jason Statham now as one of the team, as a Shaw brother it is quite confusing as he was a main villain about fifteen seconds ago.

Dominic Toretto abandoning his family seems crazy, and that is exactly what he does. Villian Cypher (Charlize Theron) shows Dom something on a screen and it is enough to make him drop his wife Lettie (Michelle Rodriguez) and his team. What could make him do this? What does Cypher want? That’s never too clear, because I don’t think the plot is the primary point of this film, and we are left in the dark more than once.

I won’t say why Dom did what he did, but there WAS a BIG reason. Naturally Brian (Paul Walker) must be mentioned loudly at least once, and that he can’t come help because they decided he needs to be away. I don’t really agree with the decision on that, because Brian O’Connor in the Law of the Furious would never drop Dominic Toretto – however sad Paul Walker’s death may be, I think the character would have died too instead of abandoning his family.

Charlize Theron’s Cypher has a very blurry reason for the things she does. The chemistry between her and Vin Diesel is less than zero, and that kiss they share is cold and plain weird (despite Diesel’s strange comments about it). There is a lot of explosions and more bad dialogue, and when Diesel, Johnson and Statham appear together onscreen the manly manliness is almost too much to witness. The rest of the crew – Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), Megan (Nathalie Emmanuel) and  Ludacris (Tej) get laughably terrible lines. Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) is still cool AF, and he’s joined by tough guy Scott Eastwood as a new recruit. The awesome Kristofer Hiviju is Cypher’s henchman, and I still love Tormund even though he’s a baddy in here.

The last few scenes of the film is naturally very dramatic and highly unlikely, and the end is  mushy but manly-still. This formulaic fan festival of epic proportions is outrageous, crazy and very similar to the last couple of Fast films. I found it slightly less engaging with a little worse dialogue, but I’m not even fooling myself – if there is a Fast 9, I will still watch it.

Rating: 6/10

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Movie Review: The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)

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Plot: Shunned by everyone for being the son of an evil warlord, a teenager seeks to defeat him with the help of his fellow ninjas.

In an unexpected turn of events, I consented to watch the Lego Ninjago movie Sunday night. There are a number of films which I’ve seen, and wanted to see, in cinema this year, of which Ninjago didn’t even register as a possibility. However, I was under obligation to adhere to the “birthday-person-is-allowed-final-word” clause, and I sat down and watched Ninjago.

I suspect Lego is laughing all the way to the bank. It is pure genius business decision, and contains enough adult humor to entertain parents while stressing them out – every child that sits through one of these films will end up wanting some new Legos (hell, I think a lot of adults end up wanting new Legos after a film like this). It is a feast for childish imagination and is bright and colorful and really very excitable. I want to sanctimoniously preach to the parents who had their children out of bed on a Sunday night at our 20:30 screening, but I guess that is beside the point. It is child based and sweet, although it does pale in comparison to 2015’s Lego film. It is funny and cute but lacks some of the sharp dialogue that has become expected in animation films.

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Ninjago also has some seriously crazy moments and I couldn’t help but wonder which choice herbs they were smoking when thinking of the ideas they implemented. It was very weird. I liked Jackie Chan as Sensei Wu, Dave Franco as Lloyd Garmadon and Justin Theroux as the not-so-evil-supervillain Garmadon. Typing that out made me realize that this film barely had a plot or a conclusion (the end is particularly haphazard), but ultimately, for children, it is fine. Personally I enjoyed the first Lego film more, and I’ve been informed that Lego: Batman is a finer film than Ninjago.  However, Ninjago has some laugh-out-loud moments and it was bright, quirky and still not nearly as bad as I expected so all to them.

Have you seen Ninjago? If so, what did you think?

Rating: 6.5/10

Halloween Month Movie Review: Hocus Pocus (1993)

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Plot: After three centuries, three witch sisters are resurrected in Salem, Massachusetts on Halloween night, and it is up to two teenagers, a young girl, and an immortal cat to put an end to their reign of terror once and for all.

What better month to finally watch Hocus Pocus? Following news of an imminent and probably unnecessary sequel, combined with the onset of Halloween, I knew I had to finally sit down and watch this favored and loved cult classic. It was a completely different movie than I thought it would be! The acting of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy is amazing and hilarious. Sarah Jessica Parker in particular surprised me. She’s just Carrie Bradshaw in my mind, and I couldn’t see her as something else. Well, as the beautiful, crazy and really damn weird Sarah Anderson she was all the levels of entertaining – such an inspired and crazy performance. The three actresses as the Sanderson sisters work great together; they share symmetry in their movements so accurate it is almost like watching a dance routine. Realizing that Sean Murray – always Timothy McGee in NCIS to me – is the poor Thackery Binx also gave me such delight.

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I really enjoyed the performances by the Sanderson sisters and how ridiculous they were and still so nastily evil, but I did find the story just a bit lacking. There isn’t always too much structure, but even with this flaw I still had a really entertaining time with it. It’s the generic “the youth defeats the evil” storyline, and while you would just love to question everything about it, I suggest you don’t, and watch Bette Midler with really weird dentistry enchant you and make you cackle with glee.

Have you seen Hocus Pocus? Let me know what you thought!

Rating: 6/10

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Happy Mean Girls Day!

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Yesterday was October 3rd. Every Mean Girl alumni knows what that means – it is the annual celebration of  the day Aaron Samuels asked Cady Heron what day it was. It reminded me that I recently watched Mean Girls again, and was as always super entertained by this highly quotable, relatable, hilarious comedy.

Most Mean Girls stars (Lacey Chabert, Amanda Seyfried, Jonathan Bennett and Daniel Franzese) reunited to ask for aid to the Las Vegas shooting victims in honor of their Mean Girls Day, and I thought that was a really nice gesture.

To celebrate this annual anniversary of one of my favorite films, here is some hilarious quotes:

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I feel exactly like you with regards to this film, girl who doesn’t even go here!

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Janis Ian gets my feelings about people using terrible grammar and being silly while at it!

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Karin, I get this question a lot!

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We know, Gretchen, we know.

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And lastly, some amazing and inspirational words from Kenny G.

What is your favorite Mean Girls quote?

Blindspot 2017: Ghost (1990)

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Plot: After a young man is murdered, his spirit stays behind to warn his lover of impending danger, with the help of a reluctant psychic.

Sitting down and finally watching Ghost was such a rewarding and fun experience for me. The 1990 Patrick Swayze, Whoopi Goldberg and Demi Moore CGI extraordinaire feast gave me a good couple of laughs, and while I am sure the film was never created for laughs, it is a side effect of watching a 90s film with CGI in 2017 for the first time. However, the film holds really well in the test of time. It has that really hot scene with the clay and sexy time in, and that is a really well shot scene even today. The sweetness of Demi Moore’s Molly and Patrick Swayze’s business-orientated-but-wildly-in-love Sam is a really lovely relationship on screen.

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The little “devils” arriving to take all the evil ghosts made me snort with laughter. The “angels/white light” arriving to fetch the good guys is so expected but still so good to see. Vincent Schiavelli makes a really creepy Subway Ghost and did really well acting deranged and loony. Patrick Swayze’s body magic through train walls was amazing to behold. Demi Moore was really shockingly beautiful in an innocent way in the 90s – not many women would be able to pull off hair like that, and her sadness and confusion in the situation she found herself in was done well enough that I found her sincere. Patrick Swayze is attractive in a 90s way, and I really enjoyed seeing him in something other than Dirty Dancing (my exposure to him is bad, I know).

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The stand out performance is that of Whoopi Goldberg, who very deservedly won an Oscar for her role as Oda Mae Brown, the fake psychic who somehow manages to become a real one when she’s able to hear Sam when he is a ghost. She is forced to help him because he bugs her senselessly until she relents, and her irritation and attitude, as well as her quick fire remarks, made this role tailor made for Whoopi Goldberg.

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You probably shouldn’t be thinking too hard about his movie, but it is really a nice piece of cinematic history to sit through. I can see myself watching it again without any fuss – definitely excellent popcorn entertainment.

Rating: 8/10

Watched, Read, Loved: June and July 2017

*warning: gargantuan post ahead*

I want to start every post now with “yes, it’s me, and I am still alive”. What a couple of months this has been! July has hands down just been the slowest month in everything for me. It was a roller coaster – I was away in Nelspruit end of June to bid my bestie goodbye, then for two weeks in Potchefstroom for university work and then I had to rush to finalize my younger sister’s 21st birthday. And when I looked down at the date it was suddenly the 19th of July and there were no blog posts from me! SHOCK, HORROR. So I am trying to move my blog into activity again, and herewith some of my favorite posts, a Watched, Read, Loved list for both June and July. I really hope to be back to full time blogging in August, I’ve really missed everyone and the feeling of having a creative outlet.

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I started off June by watching Wonder Woman (2017). I’m not really a weeper, but let me tell you I was misty eyed reading some of the truly excellent tributes that poured in. Little girls in costumes, women everywhere just flooding cinemas to watch a superhero films and all the financial and critical acclaim that accompanied this film just filled my heart. I can’t do any more justice to this excellent work of director Patty Jenkins that has already been done, but I assure you that I will always try.

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I also saw Say Anything (1987) for the first time. I can now put a film to the iconic John Cusack pose that is everywhere on the internet, and I’m not really surprised that I enjoyed this film because it is right up my alley. It is a short, fun and easy watch and really good in its’ genre. I must post its review soon but a severe case of apathy towards typing out reviews has taken hold of me at this stage.

 

I also saw Rules Don’t Apply (2016) which has the unfortunate distinction of being one fantastic box office fail. It’s not really bad, it is just frustratingly boring. It could have been great with its excellent set design and costumes, solid acting and notable performances. It just lacked heart and a decent turn of events.

I picked up Mother’s Day (2016) to watch with my own mother, because I can promise you Gary Marshall won’t be putting too risqué sex scenes in any of his films. I was right – there is little to no romance. If you can get past the notion that Jennifer Aniston is supposed to be the old, washed out mom in here, you will likely enjoy it. Julia Roberts is hidden under the most horrible wig I have ever seen, but the film is sparingly okay and has some legitimately funny moments in. It also casts Jason Sudeikis, and I have never seen him in anything except this and that godawful We’re the Millers – can someone tell me why he’s famous?

I also watched Bad Moms (2016) which was rather fun and hilarious. I know, I was shocked too.

Then there was Jackie (2016), a movie that got an Oscar nod for Natalie Portman. While her performance certainly deserves a nod, the movie itself is quite slow and not really worth the hype.

On the Afrikaans movie front I watched Platteland again. It is such an intense musical, and as Afrikaans as can be. I really do have a fondness of locally produced movies, and my plan to branch a part of this blog off into local films will hopefully happen sometime.

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Spiderman: Homecoming (2017) was a first of three July cinema watches for me. I really still struggle to formulate thoughts on this film. I sincerely didn’t hate it, but I have struggled to see the reason for Spiderman for years now, and this reboot even more so. Tom Holland is okay I guess. I particularly liked Zendaya. I think it is safe to say while I still have time for amazing and new superhero films (such as Wonder Woman), the generic Marvel film has become somewhat of a repetitive bore.

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I still cannot believe that I refreshed my makeup, made sure my outfit was okay and went out on a damn Friday night (this is torture for me) to watch Valerian and a City of a thousand planets. You will see that review hopefully Friday, but heads-up: I hated it.

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I also saw Dunkirk this last weekend and that at least was worth my time. Christopher Nolan is the salve to every hurt a bombastic Bay/Snyder movie throws out, and the beautiful, heart wrenching film hit me quite in the feels.

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Series:

Yes, I know. I need to tame this wild Pride and Prejudice obsession that has gotten over me. Not only did I see the 2005 film AGAIN – this is in addition to the watch I did in May of it, I also got my hands on the 1995 series version of it. I am a bit torn. I’ve read far and wide that it is the best adaption, and while it is certainly the most faithful adaption, I really hated the score – classical music makes me want to pull my hair out.

I finally started watching Alias season 4. It isn’t bad, still has plenty of Michael Vartan in, and I want to finish it before it somehow gets spoiled by the internet for me.

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The Vampire Diaries Season 6: Season five of this vampire-tastic show took me ages to finalize. It was slow, badly planned and really unimaginative in some places. I am glad to report that season six is wonderful – it is the first season with really legitimately funny moments in, and I am having a fantastic time.

Game of Thrones Season 7: This is still ongoing and I am avoiding people or comments like the plague who have watched it – the internet is the rudest place ever.

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On the reading front I haven’t been exactly revolutionary, but I have picked up Rage of Angels by Sidney Sheldon. I have never read anything by this author, and I am really enjoying it so far. It is fast paced plot and is well written with likeable characters. I didn’t think I would like a lawyery story, but it seems I was mistaken. I’ve hit a lag with it, and should really finish it up. I’ve slightly changed my opinion with the events that just loops all the time.

I have reread a bunch of Nora Roberts novels – Blue Smoke, The Obsession and some small ones which I really can’t recall the names of. I’ve also picked up Jewels of the Sun and Tears of the Moon, and I will review the entire trilogy once I am finished with the third book.

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I am also now reading Come Sundown – I did all the dance moves when I got a special on Loot (online shopping rocks) for this new release of Roberts. I always weep because I’m just not okay with forking out the prices retailers ask in South-Africa for new releases, so this was quite a score. I can tell you now that there is something different to Come Sundown. I will see how it ends, but it is one of the most unique books Roberts has ever done, and the tone is quite different from what she usually does.

I also should really get in to finalizing those 100 Happy Days post on here. They are just so much work and admin that I am not in the mood. I did finish the challenge, and you can few that all on my Instagram account.

As for adventures, I quickly went down to my bestie to see her one more time before she goes on her international adventure. The next time I see her will be in London, which at this stage is simply mind boggling to me.

Movie Review: Valerian and the city of a thousand planets (2017)

Plot:

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Plot: A dark force threatens Alpha, a vast metropolis and home to species from a thousand planets. Special operatives Valerian and Laureline must race to identify the marauding menace and safeguard not just Alpha, but the future of the universe.

Couple of things about this film:

1) What the actual f? Valerian and the terribly long name was super long, extremely boring and amazingly pompous.

2) Who authorized the amazingly stupid and sexist decision to remove Laureline’s name from the movie title? Cara Delevigne is the only thing that actually works in this stupid, time wasting, teeth gnashing mishap.

3) Terrible, terrible dialogue.

4) Don’t watch this

5) As much as I like the guy, Dane DeHaan is miscast. He works in awkward and nerdy roles. This intergalactic officer with cheesy pickup lines laced with some sexual harassment made him look even more uncomfortable than he usually looks.

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6) Delevigne is the best thing about this film. Laureline clearly faces the same issues women face in their place of employment – sexual harassment, being overlooked for their male colleagues and always being subtly shut down when they are clearly a leader in their field.

7) The stunning visuals and CGI of the film is the only thing that keeps me from rating this movie a 0. It looks particularly good, and the fact that this is an independent production and managed to look like it did deserve a few points.

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8) The Pearl race was gorgeous, and their little converter was super damn cute. Too bad you can’t save the film with cute animals.

I actually don’t give enough fucks about this shitty piece of drawn out shit to write out full sentences, hence the bullet points above. You can steer well clear – this is exactly how I felt about Fantastic Beasts – it’s pretty but it doesn’t have a point. That said, at least Fantastic Beasts is better and has SOME POINTS.

Rating: 4.5/10

Movie Review: Dunkirk (2017)

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Plot: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

When will it stop?That was what I thought most frequently during the duration of Dunkirk. The endless bombing, the endless attacks, the lack of hope and the unseen enemy made Dunkirk anything but comfortable to sit through. The masterful score by Hans Zimmer heightens the dread. Every time a bomb went off it felt like a vibration in my heart. The correct use of young men for the majority of the army served to highlight that World War II was fought by young, scared men. Dunkirk doesn’t make them heroes – it makes them human. The cast is excellent – from the weathered and powerful lines of Kenneth Branagh to the stoic and impeccable (as usual) performance by Tom Hardy, the movie has an ensemble cast that will leave you impressed. Harry Styles takes on his first role as an actor and he does so remarkably well. I had a moment when I heard that he’d been cast in a Christopher Nolan film, but rest assured, not only did Nolan state he had no idea who Styles was when he was cast; Christopher Nolan would never cast a subpar actor no matter who he was. Styles impressed me – he is authentic and talented and I will probably like him much more as an actor as I ever liked him as a boy band performer.

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Another mention should be given to Jack Lowden, the other pilot in Air, alongside Tom Hardy. It takes significant amount of effort to divert my attention from the talented and gorgeous Hardy, but Jack Lowden managed to keep his own. He had one of the most intense scenes in the film, trying to get out of his slowly sinking aircraft. I will hope that this is not the last time I see this actor in a film, he was talented and worth the watch.

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As for the rest? It is too much to mention. It is about young, imperfect men fighting a seemingly hopeless war. Don’t expect too many acts of heroism – the only definable act can be that of the ordinary British people who got into their little boats to head to Dunkirk and evacuate 300 000 men from imminent death. The majority of the film was intense and scary, but that moment where Commander Bolton sees the tiny ships approaching had me sniffling back tears. The moment wasn’t the often used emotional manipulation in movies – Nolan is above that and is well capable of crafting a powerful scene that hits you in the feels without having to manipulate you to get you there.

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Dunkirk is haunting. It is typically Nolan. I wouldn’t name it as my favorite Nolan or war movie, but it is excellent in both categories. It serves as a reminder of the greatness of the human spirit, and sounds a clear warning to a state this world should never enter into again. I will readily admit I am a sucker for war heroes and get pulled into it every time, and this had the same result. I highly recommend it for movie lovers.

Have you seen Dunkirk?

Rating: 8.5/10

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Movie Review: Spiderman: Homecoming (2017)

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Plot: Peter Parker, with the help of his mentor Tony Stark, tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man when a new threat emerges.

Yes, I’m still alive. I’ve just been sucked into the vortex of two weeks of study leave followed by catching up said two weeks’ worth of the activities that pay my salary.  It’s been hectic, and I’ve had to drastically downscale both blogging and actually watching things. I got a chance about two weekends ago with Spiderman: Homecoming, which is incidentally the superhero film I’ve been least excited to watch. I have some interesting friends (these are the same people with who I watched Power Rangers with), so note that it there is an actual explanation for me finding myself in cinema for the zillionth remake of the Spidey.

I didn’t dislike Homecoming. It was just so Marvel. I’m a big Marvel fan, but these guys make the same film with different actors all the time. That doesn’t say Tim Holland isn’t a solid Peter Parker. Despite already being 20, he’s the youngest looking actor we’ve had to date in this role. He does his very best to appear teenagey and awkward, which is about as successful as a young attractive guy pretending to be awkward is bound to be. My love for Michael Keaton continues – he is the coolest person in the world at this stage, and him as Vulture made some of the best times in the film. His quest for villainy was a bit one sided and this was definitely not the strongest villain Marvel has eked out, but Keaton certainly did his best with the work.

I liked Zendaya quite a lot in her role as MJ – she’s just my spirit animal with her stand offish-ness and overall awkwardness.

Homecoming also features Tony Stark/Iron Man, probably the most loved Marvel superhero at this stage. It is an obvious ploy on the side of the studio – who doesn’t want to see Iron Man suited up and in action. I always like RDJ in this role, he’s as much this character as Hugh Jackman is the Wolverine. I appreciated his presence, and although it wasn’t really defined at stages and he seemed awfully dictatorial towards the kid. Happy (Jon Favreau) comes across as one big, rushed bully and it didn’t really jibe with what we’ve come to expect from him.

What more? This film is extremely long. I was fidgeting in my seat by the end of it. It is big and boisterous and really colorful. It has a lot of flash and plenty well cast characters.

Homecoming won’t be my favorite superhero film of the year – there was Wonder Woman, I still need to see Logan and I’m sure it is going to blow me away, I loved Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Thor and Justice League still need reviews too as well. So, herewith my final comment: Homecoming certainly wasn’t made for me, but I think them teens sure loved it.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Rating: 6.510

Movie Review: Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

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Plot:A young woman who’s reinvented herself as a New York socialite must return home to Alabama to obtain a divorce from her husband, after seven years of separation.

I wouldn’t want to be the woman who had to choose between Patrick Dempsey and Josh Lucas. It seems criminal to be faced with such a decision. This is what befalls Melanie Carmichael (Reese Witherspoon), a successful fashion designer in New York. When the lovely Andrew Hennings (Dempsey) proposes, Melanie, real-surname-Smooter, must head back to the place she’s been avoiding for the last couple of years like the plague, to get a divorce from her high school sweetheart Jake Perry (Josh Lucas), without alerting the press and Andrew’s mother, who just happens to be the mayor of NYC.

But naturally all is not as easy as it should be. Melanie is faced with the fact that she’s become an uppity Yankee snob, and an uncaring one at that. Jake has a lot of secrets, and he’s clearly not as over her as he wants her to believe. There are many people of her past that hasn’t forgotten the mayhem she caused in her life, and that they are comfortable with who they are despite not being upstate and fancy.

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So yes, I wouldn’t want to choose between the blue eyes of Josh Lucas and the warm charm of Patrick Dempsey. It would be SAD. This film is your basic romantic dramedy. There are some attempts at deepness – talk of a miscarriage and Jake knowing he would have to make a drastic change to win back his estranged wife, and lots of subliminal messages about just being yourself and not hiding away your past. There was also so much 2002 fashion in Witherspoon’s outfits that I had a grand time laughing at it – who would have thought that a mere fifteen years later the choker-fashion would return?

Sweet Home Alabama (2002)
 Reese Witherspoon and Patrick Dempsey
Credit: Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Neal Peters Collection

I enjoyed Sweet Home Alabama. You need to walk in without too much expectations – this is just your basic enjoyable romance. A 7/10 for me.