By Lynn Venhaus
Borrowing elements of “Groundhog Day” and “Palm Springs,” “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” is a charming teen rom-com that does not feel forced or derivative.

That is mainly due to the appealing couple at its center – Kyle Allen is Mark and Kathryn Newton, last seen in “Freaky,” is Margaret. The two teens live the same day repeatedly, so after they discover that they share a time loop, they go on a quest to find “tiny perfect things” in their town and create a map. He is more open book and she is more secretive, but together they make a fun couple to hang out with for 98 minutes.

With rapid-paced pop culture-inspired dialogue, the pair banter about a myriad of topics as they explore their city together. References to “Doctor Who” and “Edge of Tomorrow” come up.

Mark has decided that discovering every “tiny perfect thing” in their ordinary small town would be ideal, and they could make a map full of memories.

The pair have terrific chemistry and keep us entertained, when really, we can’t figure out the astrophysics of their predicament, which always makes my head hurt.

What feels familiar in this coming-of-age tale, with its time travel tropes, yields to warm-hearted insights and clever results. There is something special in its sameness.

However, the jaunty tone is not always sustained, which is on purpose, and there is a serious streak about what really matters in life. Mark, who glides through his morning using his repetitive life for good, discovers at 17, the world does not always revolve around you.

The way empathy is introduced midway is not jarring, but rather integral to the plot and their journeys. By then, the couple had us at hello.

Director Ian Samuels has deftly told screenwriter Lev Grossman’s script, which is based on a 2016 short story. He’s aided by Andrew Wehde’s crisp cinematography, with some nifty long takes, as well as Tom Bromley’s in-the-moment indie music score.

The supporting cast is another bright spot, with Jermaine Harris as Mark’s best friend, Josh Hamilton as his dad, Cleo Fraser as his sister Emma, and Al Madrigal as his math teacher.

The film has a pleasant small-town setting, and production designer Kara Lindstrom has captured the rhythms of everyday life in depicting personal space and the town’s endearing framework.

With an emphasis on life lessons for young folk, such as live in the present and make moments count, the story is not routine, but sells its points in convincing fashion. Its mindful and positive focus set it apart.

“The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” is a comedy, romance and fantasy, directed by Ian Samuels. The cast includes Kyle Allen, Kathryn Newton, Jermaine Harris and Josh Hamilton. Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some teen drinking and sexual references, its run-time is 1 hour, 28 minutes. An Amazon original film. it began on Prime Feb. 12. Lynn’s Grade: B

By Lynn Venhaus
A hot mess of a movie, “Bliss” travels between reality and computer simulation, but do we ever know what is real? And more importantly, do we care?

A mysterious woman (Salma Hayek) convinces a troubled man (Owen Wilson) that they are living in a simulated reality, but even with chemical enhancement, their newfound merry world begins to bleed into a cruel ugly world. So, what is real and where do they belong?

Owen Wilson is Greg, a glum, recently divorced guy who goofs off at work and takes pills for an undisclosed ailment. His boss has been trying to get his attention, and certainly does when he fires him.

After a shocking development, he meets Salma Hayek’s difficult Isabel across the street in a bar, Plato’s Dive, and for the next hour and a half, we have philosophical drivel, a nonsensical love story and a bizarro world that alternates between utopian and dystopian.

The writer-director Mike Cahill, whose earlier low-budget movies, “Another Earth” and “I Origins,” put him on the indie map, has crafted what started as an ambitious sci-fi into a complex narrative that spirals out of control.

One can’t keep up with intentions – and why would you keep trying – because at every turn, characters leaps into the rabbit hole. They are on the street, then they are in paradise – it’s jarring and jerky.

“Bliss” is more like an abyss. There is so much confusing “Matrix”-like mumbo-jumbo and the main characters are irritating. Hard-shell Isabel is taxing and selfish, her motivations suspect and very often, cruel. She’s more loathsome than lazy Greg, who is just a tool.

And miscast. Wilson and Hayek do nothing for their careers with these unsympathetic roles. When they play with their powers, people get hurt – and that is painful to watch them derive pleasure from it.

Do we ever know the endgame here? “Bliss” is a superficial movie that aimed high, but its concept could not be executed in any believable way. I want 103 minutes of my life back.

“Bliss” is a sci-fi drama written and directed by Mike Cahill, starring Owen Wilson, Salma Hayek, Nesta Cooper and Ronny Chieng. It’s
rated: R for drug content, language, some sexual material and violence, and runs 1 hour, 43 minutes. An Amazon Original movie, it is available on Prime Feb. 5. Lynn’s Grade: F