Dear White People (2014)

Dear White People
Director: Justin Simien
Writer: Justin Simien
Cast: Tyler James Williams, Tessa Thompson, Kyle Gallner, Teyonah Parris, Brandon P Bell, Brittany Curran, Dennis Haysbert,
Seen on: 15.9.2016

Plot:
Biracial Samantha (Tessa Thompson) hosts a popular radio show on her campus where she tackles racial issues, “Dear White People”. After she wins the election for head of her House, the black only residence on campus, beating out her ex Try (Brandon P Bell), Sam gets a bigger platform for her outspoken activism and things get considerably more heated. The white students, in particular the frat led by Kurt (Kyle Gallner), want to push back by hosting a blackface party and asking Lionel (Tylor James Williams) to investigate undercover in Sam’s House. Meanwhile, Coco (Teyonah Parris) is trying to land a spot on a reality TV show, but they seem more interested in Sam and the tensions surrounding her.

Dear White People started off a bit weird for me, but once the film and I found our groove together and the story really starts, it is an enjoyable, funny film with a very serious core, presenting a perspective that is much too rare in mainstream entertainment.

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Hai-hil [Man on High Heels] (2014)

Hai-hil
Director: Jin Jang
Writer: Jin Jang
Cast: Seung-won Cha, Jeong-se Oh, Som E.
Seen on: 14.9.2016

Plot:
It’s hard to imagine a tougher man than Ji-wook Yoon (Seung-won Cha): a police officer whose preferred work method is to simply beat everybody up, preferably heroically on his own. But Yoon is not only at war with the criminals around him – a gang in particular has sworn revenge after he all but decimated them – he is also at war with himself. Because what he would really like to do is to live as a woman. He even tries to quit his job to start tranisitioning, but his plans don’t work out the way he wants it.

It’s weird writing this plot description/the review calling Yoon “he” throughout, but it’s also rather emblematic of the film that doesn’t really get into the gender politics of the premise but uses it as a gimmick. Thus, calling Yoon “she” would feel completely off, legitimating a very problematic approach. For the rest of this review I shall resort to “they”, even if that doesn’t sit right with me either.

Nevertheless, Hai-hil doesn’t only have strong (and pretty gory) fight scenes, but it’s engaging exactly because of the ambivalence it shows towards (trans*)gender issues. Though that engagement doesn’t come without pain about the often bad representation (at least judging from my pov as a European, cis woman and – hopefully – ally to trans* people).

highheels[SPOILERS]

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La Soledad (2016)

La Soledad
Director: Jorge Thielen Armand
Writer: Rodrigo Michelangeli, Jorge Thielen Armand
Cast: José Dolores López, Adrializ López, Marley Alvillares, Jorge Thielen Hedderich, María Agamez Palomino
Seen on: 13.9.2016

Plot:
José (José Dolores López) lives with his family in a dilapitated house in Caracas, called La Soledad. They inherited that house – unofficially – from the family his grandmother Rosina (María Agamez Palomino) worked as a maid for. José barely gets by, but he does his best, trying to take care of his daughter, his grandmother and the rest of the family. But the family is threatened with eviction from the remaining family. All that can maybe safe them is the rumored treasure in the house itself.

La Soledad straddles the line between documentary and feature film. The house was actually the house of director Amand’s family, José really his childhood friend and Armand seems to capture the images of a Venezuela in crisis very naturalistically (as far as I can tell, having never been there). And yet I didn’t get all that warm with the film.

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Nerve (2016)

Nerve
Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Writer: Jessica Sharzer
Based on: Jeanne Ryan’s novel
Cast: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade, Miles HeizerKimiko GlennMarc John Jefferies, Machine Gun Kelly, Juliette LewisSamira Wiley
Seen on: 10.9.2016

Plot:
When Vee (Emma Roberts) is accused by her best friend Sydney (Emily Meade) that she always plays it safe, Vee impulsively decides to get active in Nerve, an online game of Dare that is making the rounds among the teenagers of the city. Her first dares are innocent enough and bring her in touch with another participant, Ian (Dave Franco). They decide to team up. But the longer they play, the higher the stakes. And soon Vee finds that she can’t get out of the game anymore and she doesn’t even know if she can actually trust Ian.

I didn’t expect much from Nerve, but it turns out it’s an absolutely entertaining film. It’s not a masterpiece in any sense of the word, but it’s enjoyable popcorn cinema.

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Dark Night (2016)

Dark Night
Director: Tim Sutton
Writer: Tim Sutton
Cast: Anna Rose Hopkins, Robert Jumper, Karina Macias, Conor A. Murphy, Aaron Purvis, Rosie Rodriguez, Kirk S. Wildasin III
Seen on: 10.9.2016

Plot:
6 strangers in a city, leading very different lives, but all heading towards the same point that night – one where violence erupts. But traces of that violence are everywhere, fragments of the very real shooting at The Dark Knight Rises premiere in Colorado.

Dark Night is not a documentary of the Aurora shooting, nor is it a dramatization of the events. While it does use details from and media coverage of the shooting, it doesn’t so much attempt to reconstruct what happened but to show a caleidoscope of details, rearranging everything until there’s very little left that even has the possibility to make sense at all.

It’s an ambitious project and an interesting cinematic attempt, but ultimately, it’s a film that I wanted to like much more than I actually did.

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The Cockatrice Boys (Joan Aiken)

The Cockatrice Boys is a young adult/children’s novel by Joan Aiken.
Finished on: 10.9.2016

Plot:
The United Kingdom is facing a plague of monsters, called cockatrices, of all shapes and sizes that pretty much overran the entire country. But there are the Cockatrice Corps, an army special unit dedicated to fight the monsters. As they ride the train across the country fighting monsters along the way, they are joined by Dakin as a drummer boy and a little later by his cousin Sauna who seems to have a way of knowing things she couldn’t know and who has spent the last few years tied up at her aunts place so she doesn’t break anything. And maybe those two are just what the Corps needed to finally get ahead in the fight.

The Cockatrice Boys didn’t really convince me, unfortunately. I thought it was often confusing and rarely all that funny. It just left me scratching my head.

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Re-Watch: HK: Hentai Kamen [HK: Forbidden Super Hero] (2013)

HK: Hentai Kamen
Director: Yûichi Fukuda
Writer: Yûichi Fukuda, Shun Oguri
Based on: Keishū Ando’s manga Kyūkyoku!! Hentai Kamen
Cast: Ryôhei Suzuki, Fumika Shimizu, Ken Yasuda
Part of: /slash Filmfestival (special screening)
Seen on: 9.9.2016
[Here’s my first review.]

Plot:
Kyōsuke Shikijō (Ryôhei Suzuki) is a high school student with a strong sense of justice, but unfortunately nothing to back that up with. So when he stands up against bullies, he regularly gets beat up. When Aiko Himeno (Fumika Shimizu) comes to his school, he immediately falls in love. Then Aiko is taken hostage during a bank robbery and Kyōsuke wants to save her. To not be recognized, he wants to pull on a mask, but pulls on a panty by mistake. But through that mistake his superpowers are released and Kyōsuke becomes Hentai Kamen – Pervert Mask.

When I first saw Hentai Kamen, I already loved it and I’m happy to say that it definitely holds up to re-watching it. It again had me laughing more often than not.

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Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (2016)

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie
Director: Mandie Fletcher
Writer: Jennifer Saunders
Based on/sequel to: the series
Cast: Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Jane Horrocks, Julia Sawalha, Robert WebbCelia ImrieMark Gatiss, Chris ColferKate Moss, Graham NortonGwendoline ChristieSuki WaterhouseLily ColeAlexa ChungStella McCartneyJerry HallEmma BuntonJon HammKathy LetteJeremy PaxmanDawn FrenchRebel WilsonBarry HumphriesJoan Collins
Seen on: 8.9.2016

Plot:
Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) have been best friends since about forever, spending most of their time battling the idea that growing older also means growing up. Instead they party in the world of high fashion all of the time. But they’re also struggling with keeping up their standard of living, Edina dreaming of finding a big client she can represent, and Patsy of finding a rich husband. When they hear that Kate Moss (as herself) is looking for new representation, they do everything to get close to her. But it ends in catastrophe: Kate is knocked into the Thames and disappears, and Edina and Patsy have to flee the country.

I’ve never seen the TV show this is based on/a sequel to, but I decided to see the film anyway because it’s rare enough to get such a female-centric film (both in front of and behind the camera). But honestly, I’m a little unsure what to do with this film – and I probably wouldn’t have if I had been familiar with the show before.

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Una hermana [One Sister] (2016)

Una hermana
Director: Sofía BrockenshireVerena Kuri
Writer: Sofía Brockenshire, Verena Kuri
Cast: Sofia Palomino
Seen on: 5.9.2016

Plot:
Argentina, in the middle of nowhere. A young woman (Sofia Palomino) is looking for her sister who disappeared. She is determined to leave no stone unturned, no path and possibility unexamined to find her. But she seems to be getting nowhere with her search – all she achieves is becoming more and more lost herself.

Una hermana is a slow film that keeps turning in circles. Even if that was its intention, it made it hard to watch and often simply boring. While I could get into it for stretches at a time, it didn’t quite come together for me.

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Now You See Me 2 (2016)

Now You See Me 2
Director: Jon M. Chu
Writer: Ed Solomon
Sequel to: Now You See Me
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Daniel Radcliffe, Morgan Freeman, Michael CaineSanaa Lathan, Jay Chou, Tsai Chin
Seen on: 5.9.2016

Plot:
After the last stunt they pulled, the Four Horsemen have to lie low. Danny (Jesse Eisenberg) is growing increasingly frustrated with the situation – he doesn’t want to hide anymore, while Dylan (Mark Ruffalo), working as a double agent at the FBI, does his best to keep them off the Horsemen’s real trail. But when Lula (Lizzy Caplan) shows up in Danny’s apartment with a whole lot of knowledge about the Horsemen, it seems that the time of hiding is over anyway. Danny calls together the remaining Horsemen – Jack (Dave Franco) and Merritt (Woody Harrelson) to figure out a plan, only to realize that Lula wants to become one of them. So they start planning their heist, but things don’t go as planned.

While Now You See Me was an entertaining, if far from perfect, romp, Now You See Me 2 was simply a catastrophe. The best thing I can say about it is that it wasn’t entirely boring.

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