Les misérables (2019)

Les misérables
Director: Ladj Ly
Writer: Ladj Ly, Giordano Gederlini, Alexis Manenti
Cast: Damien Bonnard, Alexis Manenti, Djebril Zonga, Issa Perica, Al-Hassan Ly, Steve Tientcheu, Almamy Kanouté, Nizar Ben Fatma, Raymond Lopez, Luciano Lopez, Jaihson Lopez
Seen on: 20.2.2020

Content Note: police violence

Plot:
Stéphane (Damien Bonnard) is new at the police station in Montfermeil, one of Paris’ more troublesome neighborhoods. Stéphane is full of good intentions, so seeing how his colleagues Chris (Alexis Manenti) and Gwada (Djebril Zonga) interact with the people around them shocks him. As he tries to get his bearings and figure out the power distribution in the neighborhood, their first case together already starts spiraling out of control.

Les misérables is a tough film in the best way. It takes a very critical look at the pretty much desperate situation in the poorest parts of Paris, but it does leave some air to breathe at the end. Maybe.

The film poster showing a group of men staring at the camera.
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Mighty Oaks (Support: Jackson Dyer)

Mighty Oaks played a show in Vienna with the support of Jackson Dyer.
Seen on: 18.2.2020

I saw the Mighty Oaks a few years ago at the Frequency Festival before I even really knew them and enjoyed them then, but it took me another few years to really start listening to them some more. But now the timing was just right: I listened to them a lot, they just released a new album and I was ready to see them again. And it was a wonderful concert.

A photo of the band consisting of three white men.
Mighty Oaks
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Dolittle (2020)

Dolittle
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Writer: Stephen Gaghan, Dan Gregor, Doug Mand, Chris McKay
Based on: Hugh Lofting‘s books
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Harry Collett, Carmel Laniado, Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Buckley, Kasia Smutniak, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, Marion Cotillard, Frances de la Tour, Jason Mantzoukas
Seen on: 13.2.2020
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Plot:
Doctor Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) has a gift: he’s a veterinarian who can talk to the animals directly. But every since his wife (Kasia Smutniak) was lost at sea, he hasn’t worked anymore. This changes quickly, when he gets two visitors in a day: the first one is Tommy (Harry Collett) who brings in a hurt squirrel, and the second is Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) who brings the news that the Queen (Jessie Buckley) may well be dying if Dolittle doesn’t help – and that would mean that he’d lose his entire estate. Forced from his isolation, Dolittle takes on the case – and Tommy makes sure to be part of it.

Dolittle has potential – Downey Jr. surrounded by animals voiced by a whole lot of excellent people? What can go wrong? A lot, apparently. Maybe this film should serve as a case study for that.

The film poster showing Doctor Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) surrounded by various animals.
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The Phantom of the Opera (1925) + Thierry Escaich

The Phantom of the Opera
Director: Rupert Julian, Lon Chaney, Ernst Laemmle, Edward Sedgwick
Writer: Walter Anthony, Elliott J. Clawson, Bernard McConville, Frank M. McCormack, Tom Reed, Raymond L. Schrock, Richard Wallace, Jasper Spearing
Based on: Gaston Leroux‘s novel
Cast: Lon Chaney, Mary Philbin, Norman Kerry, Arthur Edmund Carewe, Gibson Gowland, John St. Polis, Snitz Edwards, Mary Fabian, Virginia Pearson
Part of: Film and Music Cycle in the Konzerthaus
With music by Thierry Escaich
Seen on: 12.2.2020

Plot:
The Opera in Paris haunted – but not by some specter, but by the Phantom (Lon Chaney) that dwells in the catacombs beneath the opera house. When the Phantom, himself a musical genius, realizes the talent of Christine (Mary Philbin), he makes sure that her career as a singer takes off. But ultimately, he wants Christine for himself – and that means getting her away from her fiancé Raoul (Norman Kerry).

The Phantom of the Opera is an absolute classic and with good reason, even if a lot seems cheesy from today’s perspective. Escaich’s accompaniment on the organ was the perfect choice for the film.

The film poster showing a drawing of the phantom diving after a boat.
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Sierra Burgess Is a Loser (2018)

Sierra Burgess Is a Loser
Director: Ian Samuels
Writer: Lindsey Beer
Cast: Shannon Purser, Kristine Froseth, RJ Cyler, Noah Centineo, Loretta Devine, Lea Thompson, Alan Ruck, Mary Pat Gleason
Seen on: 9.2.2020

Content Note: ableism, transmisia, sexualized violence

Plot:
Sierra (Shannon Purser) is far from a popular girl. Not like Veronica (Kristine Froseth) who hates Sierra and has boys flocking to her. Boys like Jamey (Noah Centineo) who gets up his courage to ask for her number. But Veronica isn’t interested in someone she sees as a loser – and instead gives Jamey Sierra’s phone number. Jamey and Sierra start texting and get along great, but Sierra doesn’t dare tell Jamey who she really is – and isn’t. But Veronica, too, has boy trouble: she really wants to impress the college guy she dates with her knowledge – and for that, she needs Sierra’s help.

When Sierra Burgess came out, I remember there being a lot of criticism of it, but that memory had – unfortunately – faded to a point where I thought, I’d give the film a chance. I shouldn’t have. The criticism was right, this film is a very hot mess.

The film poster showing the four main characters of the film.

[SPOILERS]

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Countdown (2019)

Countdown
Director: Justin Dec
Writer: Justin Dec
Cast: Elizabeth Lail, Jordan Calloway, Talitha Eliana Bateman, Peter Facinelli, Dillon Lane, Tichina Arnold, Tom Segura, P.J. Byrne
Seen on: 8.2.2020

Plot:
An app keeps making the rounds that supposedly knows the exact moment you will die. It also reaches nurse Quinn (Elizabeth Lail) at her hospital in the shape of a patient who just lost his girlfriend and is convinced he will die himself now. Quinn is doubtful, but when all her colleagues download the app, she does, too. It tells her, she has only a few days left. Quinn shakes it off – until her patient dies under suspicous circumstances. Then a race against time starts for Quinn to figure out how she can stop her own death.

I did not expect much from Countdown – and it really wasn’t any good. Too many things didn’t make sense or were ouright ridiculous. At least there was entertainment to be had in taking it apart afterwards.

The film poster showing a dead hand holding a cellphone that shows a counter at zero.

[SPOILERS]

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Editors (Support: Whispering Sons)

Editors played a concert in Vienna with the support of Whispering Sons.
Seen on: 7.2.2020

I’ve seen Editors a couple of times now and they’re always good. This time was no exception. What was an exception, though, is that I actually knew the supporting band, Whispering Sons, and love at least one of their songs. In short, it was a very enjoyable evening of music.

Photo of the band consisting of five white men.
Editors
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Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
Director: Cathy Yan
Writer: Christina Hodson
Sequel to (kinda): Suicide Squad
Based on: Birds of Prey by Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Chuck Dixon and Harley Quinn by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm
Cast: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ella Jay Basco, Ewan McGregor, Chris Messina, Ali Wong
Part of: DC movies
Seen on: 7.2.2020
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Plot:
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) was just broken up with and she’s not dealing all too well with the Joker’s rejection. As she parties her way through the heartache, she keeps the break-up under wraps, at least for a while. When she finally is able to admit to the break-up herself, she decides that a public statement is in order. What she didn’t consider, though, is that it would mean that half of Gotham city believes her to be an easy target now. Very quickly, Harley finds herself in the crosshairs of pretty much everybody, above all Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor). To save her own skin, Harley gets involved with the search for a diamond for Sionis and things get even more complicated from there.

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is an absolutely fantastic film. It’s funny, has great characters, awesome action and looks gorgeous. It immediately became one of my favorite superhero movies.

The film poster showing Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) in party mode.
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P.S. I Still Love You (Jenny Han)

P.S. I Still Love You is the second novel in the To All the Boys series by Jenny Han.
Finished on: 7.2.2020
[Here’s my review of the first novel.]

Plot:
Lara Jean has a love letter to deliver – this time on purpose. And it brings the wanted result: Peter actually wants to be with her. But their new relationship (this time for real!) is shaken when a video of the two of them kissing in a hot tub makes the rounds at school, quickly turning into a story of how the two of them had sex and into a meme. Lara Jean suspects Peter’s ex-girlfriend Genvieve of spreading the video and fears that Peter will take Gen’s side. And then a letter arrives, a reply to one of the letters she wrote that were sent out against her will and that got lost for a while: John Ambrose McClaren soon becomes a regular pen pal for Lara Jean.

P.S. I Still Love You is an entirely satisfying sequel and just a wonderful novel that I really didn’t want to put down and practically didn’t. It’s supersweet.

The book cover showing a girl leaning against a reading nook.
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Re-Read: The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov)

The Master and Margarita is a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov. I read the German translation (Der Meister und Margarita) by Thomas Reschke.
Finished on: 5.2.2020
[Here’s my last review.]

Plot:
Moscow, 1930. The writers Berlioz and Besdomny are in the middle of a discussion about the existence, or better yet actual non-existence of Jesus, when they are interrupted by a stranger who tells them a story of how he was present during Pontius Pilate’s trial of Jesus. Then the stranger goes on to predict Berlioz rather gruesome death, which promptly happens. Turns out, said stranger is actually the devil. In the guise of the black magician Voland, he and his associates came to wreak havoc in Moscow.

This is actually the third time I read Master and Margarita, and it’s probably the time it worked best for me. But I’d still say, it’s far from being a favorite of mine and it will probably really have been the last time I read it. (Why did I read it three times ? Well, the first time I was too young, so I wanted to read it a second time to really get it. And the third time now was for a Soviet lit class at uni.)

The book cover showing the shadowy profile of a cat.
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