Today’s Special (2009)

Today’s Special
Director: David Kaplan
Writer: Aasif MandviJonathan Bines
Based on: Aasif Mandvi’s play Sakina’s Restaurant
Cast: Aasif Mandvi, Naseeruddin Shah, Jess WeixlerDean WintersKevin CorriganMadhur JaffreyHarish Patel
Seen on: 1.8.2016

Samir (Aasif Mandvi) loves cooking but his career as a chef seems to have hit a dead-end. So he has decided to go to Paris for a while and get some fresh wind into his cooking. Unfortunately that’s when his father (Harish Patel) has a heart-attack and Samir has to take over the family restaurant, a dingy Indian place. So far, Samir has always avoided engaging with Indian food, but facing the very real possibility of the restaurant having to close, he digs in with the help of cab driver and former chef Akbar (Naseeruddin Shah) who seems to have done everything at least once in his life. And maybe going back to his roots is just what Samir needs for his own cooking.

Today’s Special is a sweet film with lively characters. Plotwise there’s not much that can’t be seen from a mile away, but that’s not a bad thing if you simply want some nice entertainment. Which is exactly what you will get from this film.

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The Modern World (Steph Swainston)

The Modern World (aka Dangerous Offspring in the US version) is the third novel of the Fourlands Series by Steph Swainston.
[Here are my reviews of the others.]
Finished on: 1.8.2016

The circle’s architect Frost has a plan to get quite a bit of land back from the insects. So the Fourlands are at work building a huge dam, to then flush out the insects. The people not occupied with that are busy fighting the insects in combat, led by quite a few of the circle’s immortals. Among them is Lightning, the archer, but Lightning is otherwise occupied: his daughter Cyan is missing. What he considered simple teenage rebellion so far has him more concerned. So he asks the circle’s messenger Jant to find her and bring her back to him. But Jant’s search brings him right back to his own past.

The Modern World is an exciting continuation of the Fourlands series and simply a great book in its own right. Again I can only say that I loved it.


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L’étudiante et Monsieur Henri [The Student and Mister Henri] (2015)

L’étudiante et Monsieur Henri
Director: Ivan Calbérac
Writer: Ivan Calbérac
Based on: his play
Cast: Claude Brasseur, Noémie SchmidtFrédérique BelGuillaume de TonquédecThomas Solivéres
Seen on: 27.7.2016

Constance (Noémie Schmidt) wants to get away from home and study in the big city. For that she needs a very cheap place to stay and finds it in the apartment of the surly Henri (Claude Brasseur). Henri isn’t actually interested in renting his spare room, but his son Paul (Guillaume de Tonquédec) thought it would be a good idea. Henri finally agrees to have Constance stay with him under the condition that Constance will get between Paul and his wife Valérie (Frédérique Bel) whom Henri likes even less than Paul. Constance isn’t particularly taken with the idea, but since her only other choice is going back to live with her parents, she agrees nevertheless.

L’étudiante et Monsieur Henri is a nice film that isn’t exactly great or revolutionary, but it works just fine nevertheless, although not everything as easily as it could have.

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Wild (2016)

Director: Nicolette Krebitz
Writer: Nicolette Krebitz
Cast: Lilith Stangenberg, Georg Friedrich, Silke Bodenbender, Saskia Rosendahl, Pit Bukowski
Seen on: 27.7.2016

Ania (Lilith Stangenberg) lives a quiet life. Her sister (Saskia Rosendahl) just moved out, leaving her the apartment for herself. Apart from her boss’ (Georg Friedrich) temper, things at work are calm as well. But then Ania sees a wolf in the small patch of forest next to her apartment building and she becomes obsessed with capturing it.

Wild is a strange film, but in the best sense. It’s open to a lot of interpretation, although to me it clearly tells the story of a woman who discovers and falls in love with her own wild side. And we could stand more films of that kind.



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Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Star Trek Beyond
Director: Justin Lin
Writer: Simon PeggDoug JungRoberto OrciPatrick McKayJohn D. Payne
Based on: Gene Roddenberry‘s TV show
Sequel to: Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness
Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon PeggJohn Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris ElbaSofia BoutellaJoe TaslimLydia WilsonDanny PudiGreg GrunbergShea Whigham
Seen on: 26.7.2016

The Enterprise is about halfway through their five year mission of exploring uncharted space. But five years is a long time and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) starts wondering about other career options. Before things get very far, though, they all land at Starbase Yorketown. The base has recently rescued Kalara (Lydia Wilson), a scientist whose ship was attacked. The Enterprise is sent off to rescue the rest of Kalara’s crew, but things don’t go as planned: instead the Enterprise is destroyed and the crew is stranded on the planet Altamid.

Star Trek Beyond was an entertaining film again and – to a non-Trekkie like me – it felt like the trekkiest of the new films so far. There are still a whole lot of plot holes and not everything worked flawlessly for me, but I had fun watching it.

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The BFG (2016)

Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Melissa Mathison
Based on: Roald Dahl’s novel
Cast: Ruby BarnhillMark RylancePenelope WiltonJemaine ClementRebecca HallRafe SpallBill Hader
Seen on: 26.7.2016

Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) lives in an orphanage that isn’t exactly the best place. One night Sophie watches as a huge person in a cloak runs through the city of London. And then that person sees her watching and simply grabs her. Soon, Sophie finds herself in the country of giants, the mysterious cloakwearer turning out to be a giant himself. Fortunately for Sophie, he’s the smallest and only friendly giant which is why she calls him the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance). But when Sophie hears what the other giants are up to every night, she knows that she has to do something.

The BFG is in many things a very nice adaptation of the book, although it does lack a bit of the novel’s magic. Nevertheless I enjoyed it a lot.

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Toni Erdmann (2016)

Toni Erdmann
Director: Maren Ade
Writer: Maren Ade
Cast: Sandra HüllerPeter SimonischekMichael WittenbornThomas LoiblTrystan PütterHadewych MinisLucy RussellIngrid BisuVlad IvanovVictoria Cocias
Seen on: 24.7.2016

Winfried (Peter Simonischek) is a strange man, a bit of a prankster. After his dog dies, he decides to visit his daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller) who works in Bucharest as a consultant. The two of them don’t really speak or get along all that well and Ines is not exactly thrilled at having her father drop by unexpectedly. But Winfried won’t give up trying to reconnect. Instead he becomes the eccentric Toni Erdmann, saying he is the German ambassador and starts showing up everywhere Ines goes, much to her consternation – at least at first.

Toni Erdmann came with high accolades and high expectations on my part. Unfortunately it almost completely failed to work for me.

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Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

Independence Day: Resurgence
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer: Nicolas Wright, James A. Woods, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, James Vanderbilt
Sequel to: Independence Day
Cast: Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Jessie T. Usher, Bill Pullman, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward, William Fichtner, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner, Patrick St. Esprit, Vivica A. Fox, Angelababy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Deobia Oparei, Nicolas Wright, Travis Tope, Chin Han
Seen on: 22.7.2016

It’s been 20 years since earth was invaded by aliens and humanity managed to fight back and win. With the alien technology left behind, we even expanded our own reach into the the universe. But what appears to be a golden time to most people, is the calm before the storm for others like former president Whitmore (Bill Pullman) who fears that the aliens will return and that they will be better prepared this time. It’s on Independence Day that his fears seem to come true and a few fighters – old and new – find themselves battling for humanity’s very existence.

I very much like the original Independence Day and I was really looking forward to this sequel, especially since it involved many of the people working on the first film. Unfortunately though, Independence Day: Resurgence is a catastrophe on pretty much every level.

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Nie yin niang [The Assassin] (2015)

Nie yin niang
Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou
Writer: Cheng Ah, T’ien-wen Chu, Hsiao-Hsien Hou, Hai-Meng Hsieh
Based on: Xing Pei’s short story Nie Yinniang
Cast: Qi Shu, Chen Chang, Yun Zhou, Satoshi Tsumabuki
Seen on: 20.7.2016

Nie Yinniang (Qi Shu) has been trained as an assassin since she was a child. But after she fails her mission by showing mercy, she is sent home with the new order to kill the governer of her home state, Tian Ji’an (Chen Chang). But the problem is that Tian Ji’an is Nie Yinniang’s cousin and they were promised to each other a long time ago. Now she has to decide where her allegiances lie: with her past or with her present.

The Assassin is a visually stunning film. Unfortunately it is also so incredibly boring that I could barely keep my interest up. And as I lost focus, I also started to lose understanding of the story, increasing the frustration I felt with the film.

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A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd)

A Monster Calls is a novel by Patrick Ness, from a concept and idea by Siobhan Dowd and with illustrations by Jim Kay.
Finished on: 19.7.2016

Conor has been having horrible nightmares for quite some time now. So when he hears a voice at exactly 12.07 am that calls from him from the graveyard not far from his house, he is not particularly impressed. Not even when the yew tree in said graveyard gets up and comes to him, insisting that he was the one who called it. The monster promises Conor three stories that will help him, then Conor will have to tell his own story – the story of the nightmare he dreams almost every night.

A Monster Calls is a beautiful book in very many ways. It had me actually crying a couple of times. It’s gripping, haunting and an intimate look at very big issues and the complexities that come with being human. I loved it.

amonstercallsI went into the book not knowing much about it. I bought it a while ago based on the illustrations and finally got around to reading it (with the upcoming adaptation it’s about damn time, too). I can only recommend that you try to go in as unprepared as I did. And I can only urge you to check it out. I think it will pay off for you, too. So, stop reading the review and go read the book.

In any case, from now on: SPOILERS.
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