‘A Tourist’s Guide to Love’
For the most part, the romantic comedy “A Tourist’s Guide to Love” follows the predictable pattern of a Hallmark-style “workaholic slows down and finds love” story. Rachael Leigh Cook plays Amanda Riley, an over-scheduled Los Angeles travel agent who suffers an unexpected setback in a long-term relationship. She recovers by taking a business trip to Vietnam, where she’s captivated both by the place and by her guide: the kind-hearted optimist Sinh Thach (Scott Ly). Though the movie’s leads are undeniably charming, director Steven K. Tsuchida and screenwriter Eirene Tran Donohue don’t give them much to do that hasn’t been done many times before.
What does distinguish their film is its setting. Amanda has been sent to Vietnam by her boss (Missi Pyle) as a kind of secret shopper, to experience the Tết celebrations and to look into the possibility of acquiring Sinh’s family-owned tour company. Hiding her true intentions, Amanda asks Sinh to take her tour group to all the country’s most popular spots; but gradually she gets more into his groove, following the flow of any given day.
Because this is a rom-com, eventually Amanda may have to risk her budding relationship with Sinh by telling him the truth; and there’s always the possibility that her noncommittal boyfriend John (Ben Feldman) will reenter the picture. But until those narrative gears start grinding again, “A Tourist’s Guide to Love” is a genuinely pleasant trip through Vietnam’s stunning-looking cities and countryside as two nice folks meander along, falling for each other.
‘A Tourist’s Guide to Love.’ TV-PG, for mild themes. 1 hour, 36 minutes. Available on Netflix
In their indie drama “Cherry,” writer-director Sophie Galibert and co-writers Arthur Cohen and Anne-Claire Jaulin make the daring choice to have their title character be a total mess. Alex Trewhitt plays Cherry, a young woman who works (sort of) as a magician at a costume shop and spends her free time either participating in a roller-skate dance troupe (when she remembers to show up) or hanging out with her boyfriend, Nick (Dan Schultz), a DJ with no interest in settling down. As the film begins, Cherry learns she’s pregnant. She has no health insurance. She has no real adult relationships to lean on. And because she’s been afraid to take a pregnancy test, she’s so far along that she has essentially 24 hours to decide what to do next.
In other words, Cherry is hardly the most sympathetic character to put at the center of a story about reproductive rights. (She even admits to never using birth control.) But that’s part of the point of this slight-but-engaging slice-of-life. These kinds of stories are rarely perfect. The easiest thing for Cherry to do would be to ask her friends and family for advice; but that’s not who she is. She’s a mixed-up youngster who half-wonders if maybe having a baby would help her mature. Ultimately, this film is less about her final decision than about how having these choices helps her figure out who she wants to be.
‘Cherry.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 16 minutes. Available on VOD
‘The Best Man’
The proliferation of “Die Hard” rip-offs in the ’80s and ’90s often lacked what made the original special: the quirky personalities of the heroes and villains. So the thriller “The Best Man” — which is essentially “Die Hard” at a destination wedding — deserves some credit for at least taking the time to let the audience get to know its characters. Brendan Fehr plays Bradley, who reconnects with his old special ops buddies Cal (Luke Wilson) and Anders (Dolph Lundgren) for Cal’s wedding at a ritzy New Mexico resort. Writer-director Shane Dax Taylor and co-writers C. Alec Rossel and Daniel Zirilli spend about a third of the film watching these guys reminisce, drink and flirt with the ladies in the wedding party.
Then mercenaries with a personal grudge invade the hotel and Bradley finds himself separated from the group, working in the shadows with the bride’s sister Hailey (Scout Taylor-Compton) to outsmart the gunmen. It’s here where “The Best Man” stumbles. The cat-and-mouse action is uninspired and slackly paced; and any pizazz that Wilson, Lundgren and Fehr bring gets lost once they stop talking and start shooting. The location is nice; and to be fair, this movie never promises more than it delivers. It’s an unambitious “Die Hard” clone with likable actors, aimed at audiences looking for something adequate.
‘The Best Man.’ R, for violence, language and brief drug use. 1 hour, 33 minutes. Available on VOD
Also on VOD
“Gringa” is a shaggy underdog sports story about a cranky soccer prodigy named Marge (Jess Gabor) who leaves home after her mom dies and tracks down her absentee dad (Steve Zahn), a laid-back soccer coach in Mexico. The film packs two movies’ worth of melodrama into one; but the backgrounds are lovely, Zahn and Gabor play well off each other, and the movie builds to an exciting climactic match. Available on VOD; also playing theatrically, Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray
“Small Axe” collects five vibrant, passionate Steve McQueen films (including what may be his masterpiece, “Lovers Rock”) that cover the tumultuous period from the ’60s to the ’80s in the lives of Londoners with roots in the West Indies. The Criterion Blu-ray set includes a related documentary co-directed by McQueen and James Rogan, as well as multiple interviews with McQueen, covering different aspects of this remarkable 2020 project. The Criterion Collection