‘Longest Third Date’
In March 2020, as the pandemic became bad enough that businesses around the world started shutting down, the news was filled with human-interest stories about people stuck abroad: on cruise ships, in hotels, at airports, even at luxury resorts. One of those stories was about Khani Le and Matt Robertson, a newly dating couple who flew to Costa Rica for an impulsive romantic getaway that ended up stretching on for months. Because Matt liked to vlog about his adventures, he recorded nearly every stage of the process as he and Khani worried about the outside world, settled into new routines and tried to get to know each other.
Brent Hodge’s documentary “Longest Third Date” makes good use of that footage, supplemented by new interviews with Matt and Khani, who reflect on how they really felt at the time — versus the happy faces they put on for their selfies. That disconnect between people’s performative selves and their true selves is the most intriguing part of “Longest Third Date” because it also speaks to how new couples behave when they’re trying to impress each other. Ordinarily, they’d only have to be pleasant and fascinating for a few hours — or, if all went well, until the morning. Matt and Khani had to put on a show for about 80 days.
The film also functions as an unusual record of a very strange time. There have already been multiple documentaries about the mounting panic during COVID-19’s first few months, but this one is less about big-picture fears than about the little inconveniences that made life so stressful. Will Matt and Khani find a place to stay? How can Khani refill her birth control? Who ever knew it could be so hard to get on a plane and fly home?
These two are as likable as they are adventurous, which works against their story to a degree because neither of them are into creating reality TV-style drama. Still, watching them nurture a budding relationship while enduring one of the worst eras of modern human history is suspenseful. It’s hard for any relationship to survive. Throw in a nearly three-month quarantine? That’s a rom-com meet-cute cranked up to the max.
‘Longest Third Date.’ TV-MA, for language. 1 hour, 15 minutes. Available on Netflix
‘One of These Days’
Across America — and especially in the South — some businesses or organizations hold annual events where people try to win a new car or truck by keeping at least one hand on the vehicle for as long as possible. These contests have inspired an acclaimed 1997 documentary and a Tony-nominated Broadway musical (both called “Hands on a Hardbody”); and before he died, director Robert Altman talked about gathering one of his usual star-studded ensembles to turn the phenomenon into an Altman film. It’s impossible to say exactly what his version would’ve been like, but it likely wouldn’t have been as dark as writer-director Bastian Günther’s “One of These Days,” which uses a “hands on” competition as the foundation for a movie that weaves between pitiless satire and a grim study of human nature.
Carrie Preston adds some pep to the picture as Joan, a car dealership’s contest organizer and host, who enjoys being a local celebrity and playing caretaker to the contestants, though privately she’s a lonely woman, juggling multiple casual boyfriends and missing her college-aged daughter. Most of the movie is about the competitors, a generally miserable lot who endure the sweltering Texas heat and the discomfort of standing for days, while gradually (and sometimes intentionally) getting on each other’s nerves.
“One of These Days” is well-acted and well-shot, and it builds to a shocking twist — involving one desperate contestant, Kyle (Joe Cole) — before shifting to an extended flashback meant to fill in some of the story’s biggest gaps. It’s an artful piece of work, with some memorable moments where these Texans pick at each other, playing on the weaknesses that are hard to hide in a small town. But the movie is also relentlessly sour, reducing nearly everyone in it (except Joan) to a few immediately observable and mostly unflattering traits. Past approaches to this premise have emphasized people’s humanity. “One of These Days” never really tries to get to know its own characters any better.
‘One of These Days.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 59 minutes. Available on VOD
‘One True Loves’
Based on a Taylor Jenkins Reid novel — with a screenplay by Reid and her husband, Alex Jenkins Reid — the romantic melodrama “One True Loves” tells the kind of story that Hollywood used to pitch as farce. Phillipa Soo plays Emma, who gets engaged to one of her oldest friends, Sam (Simu Liu), four years after her husband, Jesse (Luke Bracey), is presumed dead in a helicopter crash. When Jesse surprisingly returns, Emma has to decide whether to blow up the new life she’s made for herself for the sake of giving Jesse’s tale of faith and endurance a happy ending. “One True Loves” is a lot like the 1940 Cary Grant/Irene Dunne/Randolph Scott screwball classic “My Favorite Wife” — except that it’s heavy-footed and drippy instead of lively and funny.
There are talented people up and down the “One True Loves” cast and crew list, so it really makes no sense that director Andy Fickman’s film is so off-key. Nearly every creative choice goes awry. The movie’s narrative structure includes flashbacks so sloppily cued that it’s sometimes hard to tell whether we’re looking at the past or present. Scenes fade to black in a dramatic fashion even though nothing intense has happened. The dialogue and performances come off flat, with the characters mostly just saying what they’re thinking at any given moment, rather than having normal human conversations. Reid’s premise remains strong, but with stumble after stumble. “One True Loves” keeps finding ways to weaken it. The movie has the general shape of a comedy, but any laughs are largely unintentional.
‘One True Loves.’ PG-13, for some suggestive material and language. 1 hour, 40 minutes. Available on VOD
‘Once Upon a Time in Ukraine’
Don’t expect to learn a lot about the history or culture of Ukraine from writer-director Roman Perfilyev’s arch action picture “Once Upon a Time in Ukraine.” Although the movie’s main character is the influential mid-19th century poet, artist and activist Taras Shevchenko (Roman Lutskyi), Perfilyev has dropped this literary legend into a Tarantino-esque reimagining of American westerns and Asian martial arts movies, following Taras’ adventures as a serf who joins wandering samurai Akayo Nakamura (Sergey Strelnikov) on a shared mission of revenge against landlords and slave-traders.
The plot is convoluted and (again a la Tarantino) dotted with flashbacks and digressions laced with references likely to be lost on anyone who hasn’t studied the past two centuries of Eastern European politics. But the fight sequences are so dynamic — and so frequent — that the 90-minute runtime flies by. This is the kind of movie that connoisseurs of over-the-top action like to seek out. American audiences may not fully understand what the characters are talking about, but the gunfights and sword fights? Those come through loud and clear.
‘Once Upon a Time in Ukraine.’ In Ukrainian with subtitles. Not rated. 1 hour, 30 minutes. Available on VOD
‘The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die’
Adapted from Bernard Cornwell’s historical novels about the birth of England in the 9th and 10th centuries, the prestige TV drama “The Last Kingdom” has found a fervent fan base for its bloody battles and political intrigue — which all play a little like “Game of Thrones” minus the dragons. The show aired its fifth and final season in 2022, but it’s now getting an epilogue via the movie “The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die,” which brings back Alexander Dreymon as Uhtred of Bebbanburg, still fighting off interlopers while helping to unite the English-speaking world. The film is aimed at people who know the source material, but it’s not impossible for newcomers to follow the action. Though “Seven Kings Must Die” suffers some from the gray palette, dim lighting and general somberness that weighs heavy on a lot of modern television, the movie delivers viscerally exciting fight scenes and a strong sense of what life was like in an ancient, unsettled world.
‘The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die.’ TV-MA, for gore, language and violence. 1 hour, 51 minutes. Available on Netflix
Also on VOD
“Cocaine Bear: The True Story” is an hourlong documentary that serves as a supplement to the recent horror-comedy hit, explaining how the movie puts a goofy crowd-pleasing spin on what was actually a much darker tale about a law enforcement officer who became a drug trafficker and then dumped pounds of illegal narcotics in the Georgia woods. Available on Peacock
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray
“Magic Mike’s Last Dance” reunites director Steven Soderbergh with his “Magic Mike” star Channing Tatum for a story that sees the former stripper Mike Lane taking a job in London choreographing erotic dance routines for a big-time stage musical at the behest of his new lover and benefactor, Max Mendoza (Salma Hayek). The Blu-ray adds a featurette, getting into how this series about the ultimate underdog has itself been an unexpected success. Warner Bros.