Pirmdzimtais [Firstborn] (2017)

Pirmdzimtais
Director: Aik Karapetian
Writer: Aik Karapetian
Cast: Maija Doveika, Kaspars Znotins, Dainis Grube, Kaspars Zale
Seen on: 28.6.2019
[Screener Review.]

Plot:
Katrina (Maija Doveika) and Francis (Kaspars Znotins) have been a couple for a while and things can be a little tense between them. When they are assaulted by a biker (Kaspars Zale), they are both pretty shellshocked. Katrina turns to a police officer for help, leaving Francis feeling inadequate: he couldn’t stop the assault in the first place and now he isn’t even good enough to help afterwards. Determined to prove his worth, he seeks out the biker himself, but their confrontation goes differently than planned.

Firstborn has a strong first half, but then lost me in the second half, unfortunately, when it becomes muddled, confusing and a little boring. But there’s a lot of material for thought about masculinity in the film, so that’s something.

The film poster showing Maija Doveika and Kaspars Znotins.
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Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal [The Incessant Fear of Rape] (2018)

Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal
Director: Aditya Kripalani
Writer: Aditya Kripalani
Cast: Shalini Vatsa, Chitrangada Chakraborty, Kritika Pande, Sonal Joshi, Vinay Sharma, Ahmareen Anjum
Seen on: 29.5.2019
[Screener Review.]

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Vibha (Shalini Vatsa), Chitra (Chitrangada Chakraborty) and Shagun (Sonal Joshi) don’t know each other, but they end up sitting in the same taxi, part of a fleet especially for women. Their cab is being driven by Shaila (Kritika Pande) who owns the taxi company. As they are stuck in traffic, the four women get to talking: about the need for a taxi service like this. About the constant threat of being raped if you’re out just a little too late. About the entitlement of men. Even on this night, they can’t get home unbothered: a man (Vinay Sharma) starts hollering at them from his moped. But this time, they strike back and soon they have the guy locked up in an abandoned building, ready to teach him what it means to be afraid all the time.

Tottaa Pataaka Item Maal is an interesting, character-driven film on a feminist mission. It has a good cast and is well-told, although the ending – while thought-provoking – is a little unsatisfying. But that shouldn’t keep you from watching it: the film is well worth it.

The film poster showing Chitrangada Chakraborty.
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Camp Death III in 2D! (2018)

Camp Death III in 2D!
Director: Matt Frame
Writer: Matt Frame
Cast: Dave Peniuk, Angela Galanopoulos, Darren Andrichuk, Emma Docker, Chris Allen, Starlise Waschuk, Terry mullett, Cynthia Chalmers, Gerald Gerald Geraldson, Hans Potter, Katherine Alpen, Jason Asuncion, Andrea Bang
Seen on: 6.1.2019
[Screener review.]

Plot:
Camp Crystal Meph was the scene of a horrific bloodbath by the killer Johann Van Damme (Terry mullett). But a few years later, Todd (Dave Peniuk) is ready to give it another try. His uncle Mel (Darren Andrichuk) owns the camp ground and Todd has set up a new camp concept. Together with his camp counselors Rachel (Angela Galanopoulos) and Barry (Chris Allen), they are ready to welcome their group. But soon after their arrival, people start dying – again -, murderous squirrels run wild and nobody has any clue what is actually happening

Camp Death III in 2D! is a parody of Friday the 13th Part III in 3D that has some nicely silly ideas, but unfortunately overdoes it a lot of the times. Plus, it is just so ableist that I really wanted to scream.

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Lowlife (2017)

Lowlife
Director: Ryan Prows
Writer: Tim Cairo, Jake Gibson, Shaye Ogbonna, Ryan Prows, Maxwell Michael Towson
Cast: Nicki Micheaux, Ricardo Adam Zarate, Jon Oswald, Shaye Ogbonna, Santana Dempsey, Mark Burnham, Jose Rosete, Jearnest Corchado, Clayton Cardenas
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2018
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Plot:
El Monstruo (Ricardo Adam Zarate) is a full-time luchador who never takes off his mask. Not even when he’s at home with his girlfriend Kaylee (Santana Dempsey), who is expecting their child. Kaylee’s adoptive father Teddy (Mark Burnham) is the local crime lord. He is ruthless and El Monstruo is his enforcer, desperately ignoring the extent of Teddy’s crimes. Crystal (Nicki Micheaux), on the other hand, desperately needs Teddy’s help: her husband needs a kidney and Teddy may be the only one able to get her one that fits. Meanwhile Teddy’s accountant Keith (Shaye Ogbonna) picks up his friend Randy (Jon Oswald) from prison, where he spent the last decade, taking the fall for Keith, and he finds Randy a changed man indeed. In a rather explosive fashion, their stories come together at the motel Crystal runs.

For some reason, I expected Lowlife to be a comedy. It is not. In fact, it’s pretty hard and very dark, despite a couple of funny moments. Once I had adjusted my expectations accordingly, I was very impressed by the film.

The film poster showing the main characters of the film.
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Tito e os Pássaros [Tito and the Birds] (2018)

Tito e os Pássaros
Director: Gabriel Bitar, André Catoto, Gustavo Steinberg
Writer: Eduardo Benaim, Gustavo Steinberg
Cast: Denise Fraga, Pedro Henrique, Matheus Nachtergaele, Mateus Solano
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2018
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Plot:
Tito (Pedro Henrique) is the son of scientist Dr. Rufus (Matheus Nachtergaele). Rufus is working on the cure for a disease that is affecting more and more people: they get scared and then they turn into blobs of fear, unable to do anything anymore. Rufus believes that the answer lies in re-learning to communicate with birds who used to warn people of impending dangers. And Tito is committed to help him find the solution.

Tito e os Pássaros is a beautifully animated film that wields its message like a sledgehammer. It may not be subtle, but looking at the world right now, we’re past subtlety anyway.

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O Animal Cordial [Friendly Beast] (2017)

O Animal Cordial
Director: Gabriela Amaral
Writer: Gabriela Amaral, Luana Demange
Cast: Murilo Benício, Luciana Paes, Irandhir Santos, Camila Morgado, Jiddu Pinheiro, Ernani Moraes, Humberto Carrão, Ariclenes Barroso, Eduardo Gomes, Thais Aguiar, Diego Avelino
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2018
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Plot:
Things are slow in Inácio’s (Murilo Benício) restaurant, meaning that there is more room for his temper to flare up – as it does often, especially with his cook Djair (Irandhir Santos), but also with customer. The waitress Sara (Luciana Paes) tries to do right by them all, but especially Inácio whom she feels drawn to. But everybody’s night takes a turn for the worse when armed robbers storm the restaurant and rack up the tension.

O Animal Cordial started off pretty nicely, but then didn’t manage to retain the tension necessary to keep me invested in the film and the characters.

The film poster showing a man looking in a broken mirror.
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The Field Guide to Evil (2018)

The Field Guide to Evil
Segment 1: Die Trud [The Sinful Women of Höllfall]
Director: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Writer: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Cast: Marlene Hauser, Birgit Minichmayr, Karin Pauer, Luzia Oppermann
Segment 2: Al Karisi [Haunted by Al Karisi]
Director: Can Evrenol
Writer: Elif Domanic, Can Evrenol
Cast: Naz Sayiner, Sureyya Kucuk
Segment 3: Kindler i dziewica [The Kindler and the Virgin]
Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska
Writer: Robert Bolesto
Cast: Andrzej Konopka, Kordian Kadziela
Segment 4: The Melon Heads
Director: Calvin Reeder
Writer: Calvin Reeder
Cast: Sarah Navratil, Jilon VanOver, Claude Duhamel, Paul Ford, Kannon Hicks
Segment 5: What Ever Happened to Panagas the Pagan?
Director: Yannis Veslemes
Writer: Yannis Veslemes
Cast: Vangelis Mourikis, Antonis Tsiotsiopoulos, Vasilis Kamitsis, Panagiotis Papadopoulos, Nikos Dallas
Segment 6: Palace of Horrors
Director: Ashim Ahluwalia
Writer: Ashim Ahluwalia
Cast: Niharika Singh
Segment 7: A Nocturnal Breath
Director: Katrin Gebbe
Writer: Katrin Gebbe, Silvia Wolkan
Cast: Thomas Schubert, Lili Epply
Segment 8: The Cobblers’ Lot
Director: Peter Strickland
Writer: Peter Strickland
Cast: Fatma Mohamed, Károly Hajduk, László Konter, Péter Jankovics
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2018
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The Field Guide to Evil collects eight different segments from eight different countries that all build from a local legend. As usual with anthology films, Field Guide to Evil is a mixed bag of beans. There are some very good segments, but also some that didn’t really work for me. But I would say, it’s worth seeing because the good parts are really very good.

The film poster showing a young woman lying on her back, her eyes rolled back, her mouth open with a man's hand at her chin.

[More about each of the segments after the jump.]

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Saat po long: Taam long [Paradox] (2017)

Saat po long: Taam long
Director: Wilson Yip
Writer: Nick Cheuk, Lai-Yin Leung
Cast: Louis Koo, Yue Wu, Ka Tung Lam, Chris Collins, Tony Jaa, Jacky Cai, Ken Lo, Hanna Chan, Vithaya Pansringarm
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2018
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Plot:
Lee Chung Chi (Louis Koo) is a police officer in Hong Kong. He is tough and good at his job, but when his teenaged daughter Wing Chi (Hanna Chan) disappears in Thailand, his position at home helps him very little. Nevertheless, he goes to Thailand, hoping to help in the investigation and to find his daughter again. In Thailand he finds officers Chui Kit (Yue Wu) and his partner Tak (Tony Jaa) who are in charge of the case, although not necessarily happy with having to deal with Chung Chi as well. But when Wing Chi’s disappearance leads to a criminal conspiracy, they need all the help they can get.

Paradox is a very cool film that manages to transcend its basic thriller set-up by a healthy dose of criticism of the system and really fantastic fight scenes. I enjoyed every second of it.

The film poster showing the faces of five men under a yellow background with the silhouette of a girl walking in front of it.
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What Keeps You Alive (2018)

What Keeps You Alive
Director: Colin Minihan
Writer: Colin Minihan
Cast: Hannah Emily Anderson, Brittany Allen, Martha MacIsaac, Joey Klein
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2018
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Plot:
Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Jules (Brittany Allen) are happy, in love and on their way to celebrate their first wedding anniversary at the cabin where Jackie grew up. They are planning a weekend all for themselves, but when Jackie’s childhood friend and neighbor Sarah (Martha MacIsaac) shows up with her husband Daniel (Joey Klein), things start to change. Jackie starts behaving weirdly, leaving Jules bewildered and desperate to find out what is going on.

What Keeps You Alive builds from a familiar set-up, but given that it features a queer couple, it could have done some interesting things. Unfortunately, the script is just not up for the task, leaving too many things incomprehensible to make the film work.

The film poster showing a black and white forest with a woman's face superimposed over it and another woman running through the forest, all under a pink sky.
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BuyBust (2018)

BuyBust
Director: Erik Matti
Writer: Anton C. Santamaria, Erik Matti
Cast: Anne Curtis, Brandon Vera, Victor Neri, Arjo Atayde, Levi Ignacio, Alex Calleja, Lao Rodriguez
Part of: surprise movie at the /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2018
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Plot:
Nina (Anne Curtis) is a police officer trying to do right. But ever since her entire squad was murdered in a sting against the drug cartels in Manila, she is itching for an opportunity to hit back against them. When a new mission is announced, it appears that she will finally get that chance. She and her new squad make their way into the slums. But things don’t go as planned, and they soon find themselves in a very dire situation.

When it was revealed that BuyBust was the surprise film at the /slash, I was very excited. I had been looking forward to seeing this film, hoping basically for The Raid with a female protagonist. Unfortunately, the film didn’t fulfill my expectations for it, despite a suckerpunch of an ending.

The film poster showing a woman with her fist in her hand in front of a colorful background.
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