Upside Down (2012)

Upside Down
Director: Juan Solanas
Writer: Juan Solanas, Santiago Amigorena, Pierre Magny
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst, Timothy Spall, Blu Mankuma, Nicholas Rose, James Kidnie, Vlasta Vrana, Kate Trotter, Holly Uloth
Seen on: 1.1.2017

The two planets Up Top and Down Below are so close to each other, in some places they are within touching distance. There is even a big building, the TransWorld HQ, that connects both. This is made possible by dual gravity: both planets come with their own gravitational system that pull the things, living and otherwise, that belong to each in opposite directions. Adam (Jim Sturgess) grew up in the mountains of Down Below where he met Eden (Kirsten Dunst) from Up Top. They fell in love, but their forbidden contact was discovered and Adam had to leave Eden behind, believing her dead. 10 years later, he discovers that she is actually alive and works at TransWorld. Adam knows he has to find her again.

Upside Down was a poorly constructed film full of tropes. It just didn’t work for me at all, instead it remained nonsense. It doesn’t even begin to hold a candle to Patema Inverted that works with the same idea.

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Dead Reign (T.A. Pratt)

Dead Reign is the third of the Marla Mason novels by T.A. Pratt.
Finished on 31.12.2016
[Here are my reviews of the other Marla Mason novels.]

Marla Mason should be worrying about the Founder’s Ball, the biggest social event for Felport that has to work or else risk the wrath of the founding fathers’ ghosts. But instead of working the social intricacies of the magical elite, Marla finds herself confronted by Death himself, in the newest incarnation. He was called by an aging necromancer and realized that Marla has a knife – that can cut through anything – that used to belong to one of the previous Deaths. And he wants it back. When Marla isn’t prepared to give it up, he banishes her from Felport and takes over the city. Now Marla has to find a way to get her city back. Fortunately, her right hand Rondeau is still there to help Marla out.

I really enjoy the Marla Mason books and Dead Reign was another strong entry in the series. I love the new spin on certain things Pratt manages, but mostly I just love Marla.

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Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Nocturnal Animals
Director: Tom Ford
Writer: Tom Ford
Based on: Austin Wright‘s novel Tony and Susan
Cast: Amy AdamsJake GyllenhaalMichael ShannonAaron Taylor-JohnsonIsla FisherEllie BamberArmie HammerKarl GlusmanRobert AramayoLaura LinneyAndrea RiseboroughMichael Sheen
Seen on: 29.12.2016

Art gallery owner Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) receives a package in the mail. It contains the draft of her ex-husband Edward Sheffield’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) new novel and the information that he is in town and would like to meet her. Susan hasn’t spoken to him in almost 20 years and she is surprised by the novel and the meeting, but she starts to read the novel that was apparently inspired by her. It tells the story of Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal) who goes on a roadtrip with his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) and daughter India (Ellie Bamber) – a roadtrip that turns violent when they get into trouble with another car and its passengers.

Nocturnal Animals is a highly polished film that tells a story that goes under the skin. It’s definitely not a film that lets go of you easily, even if not everything about it works without a hitch.

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Cellular (2004)

Director: David R. Ellis
Writer: Larry CohenChris Morgan
Cast: Chris EvansJason Statham, Kim BasingerJessica BielNoah EmmerichWilliam H. MacyMircea MonroeLin Shaye 
Seen on: 27.12.2016

Teacher Jessica Martin (Kim Basinger) finds herself being held captive by Ethan (Jason Statham), who is actually looking for her husband. As Jessica is locked away in the attic, she applies her science knowledge to use the smashed up phone their. The catch is that she can’t really control the dial. Quite by chance she ends up calling carefree surfer dude Ryan (Chris Evans). Ryan doubts Jessica’s story, but she manages to convince him – and it’s up to him to help her out of this very bad situation.

I didn’t expect much from Cellular – some mindless action. Which is what I got, but in a surprisingly charming and humorous package.

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Sorry (Zoran Drvenkar)

Sorry is a novel by Zoran Drvenkar. It was translated from German to English with the same title, but I read the German original.
Finished on: 27.12.2016

Everybody screws up every once in a while, everybody needs to apologize every once in a while, too. But saying sorry is hard, both when you mean it and when you don’t. So Kris, his brother Wolf, and their friends Frauke and Tamara come up with an idea that sounds so unlikely, it just has to work: they found a company that can be hired to apologize for people. Things are going great until they’re hired by Lars Meybach. He sends them to the scene of a murder to apologize to the body – and to get rid of it. And he knows everything about the foursome, so they see no way out. But that’s only the beginning of Meybach’s plans for them.

Sorry is not a book I would have picked at a bookstore. I’m just not much of a crime reader. But I got it as a present and decided to give it a try. It was definitely different from what I expected. It is an interestingly structured, unusual thriller.

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Above the Snowline (Steph Swainston)

Above the Snowline is the fourth novel in the Fourland series by Steph Swainston. It’s a prequel, set before all of the other books.
[Here are my reviews of the others.]
Finished on: 26.12.2016

Jant Shira is new to the Emperor’s circle of immortals. Being half Rhydanne, half Awian on top of his novice status, he often feels like an outcast and is eager to prove himself. The opportunity arises when Rhydanne Dellin comes to the Castle, seeking an audience with the Emperor. Dellin’s living space in the mountains is severely encroached upon by Awian settlers and she is here to ask for help. Jant gets sent to the mountains with Dellin to check out the situation and thus has to confront his own heritage.

I enjoyed Above the Snowline very much, and I continue to be a fan of the series. Above the Snowline offers some interesting takes on the Fourlands and on colonialism, but mostly, it provides great background information on Jant himself.

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3 Generations (2015)

3 Generations aka About Ray
Director: Gaby Dellal
Writer: Nikole Beckwith, Gaby Dellal
Cast: Elle FanningNaomi Watts, Susan Sarandon, Linda Emond, Tate Donovan, Sam Trammell
Seen on: 22.12.2016

Ray (Elle Fanning) is fighting to get the hormones he needs to transition. His mother Maggie (Naomi Watts) supports him as best she can, even when she does struggle herself sometimes with his being trans. They live together with Ray’s lesbian grandmother Dolly (Susan Sarandon) who tries to help, too, but doesn’t really understand what Ray is going through. They do not live with Ray’s father Craig (Tate Donovan) who has a new family and not much interest in Ray. But Craig needs to agree to Ray’s treatment, so Maggie and Ray have to convince him.

I knew going in that About Ray – retitled 3 Generations – wouldn’t be an unproblematic film about being trans, but I wanted to give it a try anyway. What I got was okay, but definitely not great.

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Die Geträumten [The Dreamed Ones] (2016)

Die Geträumten
Director: Ruth Beckermann
Writer: Ina Hartwig, Ruth Beckermann
Based on: Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan‘s letter exchange
Cast: Anja Plaschg, Laurence Rupp
Seen on: 20.12.2016

Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan were both writers who met in Vienna just after World War II. Celan was a Romanian Jew, Bachmann an Austrian whose father was an active Nazi. But they connected and kept up a correspondence over many years, before and after having an affair, a correspondence filles with longings and what-ifs. Now singer and actress Anja Plaschg and actor Laurence Rupp are in a recording studio, reading those letters. As they uncover the depths of the relationship between Bachmann and Celan, they also learn more about each other.

I loved the idea of Die Geträumten, but I feared that it wouldn’t work for me because I’m simply bad at taking in stuff that is being read to me. And while I unfortunately was right with my fear, I still feel that Die Geträumten is a very worthwhile film.

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Kinders (2016)

Kinders (literally: Childrens)
Director: Arash T. Riahi, Arman T. Riahi
Writer: Arash T. Riahi, Arman T. Riahi
Seen on: 20.12.2016

Kinders follows a group of children who all participate in a music program where they can develop outside of their often difficult family backgrounds, enjoy themselves and grow confident.

There is a lot of cuteness in Kinders and every once in a while I felt that the film was getting closer to a bigger point, but before it got there, it always veered off course, thus never really realizing its full potential.

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Ostatnia rodzina [The Last Family] (2016)

Ostatnia rodzina
Director: Jan P. Matuszynski
Writer: Robert Bolesto
Cast: Andrzej Seweryn, Dawid Ogrodnik, Aleksandra Konieczna, Andrzej Chyra, Zofia Perczynska, Danuta Nagórna
Part of: Scope100 (the winning film in Austria)
Seen on: 20.12.2016

Surrealist painter Zdzisław Beksiński (Andrzej Seweryn) loves to record his family life. Over a period of 28 years, he keeps extensive records of his interactions with his wife Zofia (Aleksandra Konieczna) and his son Tomasz (Dawid Ogrodnik), a radio DJ and movie dubber. Things between Zdzisław and Tomasz are difficult, both having rather eccentric personalities. Zofia does her best to keep their  family at peace and for the most part she succeeds.

I had never heard of Beksiński before the film, which is unfortunate, but also heightened the effect of the film for me. And the impression it left on me was certainly very strong.

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