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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Shut In (2016)

Shut In
Director: Farren Blackburn
Writer: Christina Hodson
Cast: Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt, Charlie Heaton, Jacob Tremblay, Clémentine Poidatz, Alex Braunstein, David Cubitt, Crystal Balint
Seen on: 19.12.2016

Mary (Naomi Watts) lives a rather lonely existence. A few months ago, her husband Richard (Peter Outerbridge) and her teenaged son Stephen (Charlie Heaton) got into a car accident. Richard died, Stephen was left paralyzed from the neck down and unable to speak, becoming totally dependent on her. Now she spends all her time taking care of Stephen and working as a child psychologist from home. Just before a snow storm hits the area, one of the children she works with, Tom (Jacob Tremblay), first hides in her house, then runs into the woods. But finding Tom isn’t the only thing that becomes a pressing matter for Mary.

Shut In starts strong enough as long as it builds tension but when they start resolving the story, it pretty much falls apart, leaving a decidedly meh impression.

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Baden Baden (2016)

Baden Baden
Director: Rachel Lang
Writer: Rachel Lang
Cast: Salomé Richard, Claude Gensac, Lazare Gousseau, Swann Arlaud, Olivier Chantreau, Jorijn Vriesendorp, Noémie RossetZabou Breitman, Kate Moran
Part of: Scope100
Seen on: 18.12.2016

After an aborted attempt to work abroad, Ana (Salomé Richard) returns home to Strasbourg with the summer stretched ahead of her. She starts to renovate her grandmother’s (Claude Gensac) bathroom just to have something to do, while trying to figure out her life. Which, as usual, is easier said than done. As she reconnects with old and new friends, things don’t necessarily become any clearer for her.

Baden Baden wasn’t great, but it was far from bad. But it’s not a film that touched me particularly deeply or will stay with me for a long time.

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Rogue One (2016)

Rogue One
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writer: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Guy Henry, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits, James Earl Jones, Daniel Mays, Geraldine James, Warwick Davis, Michael Smiley
Part of/Sidequel/Prequel to: Star Wars
Seen on: 18.12.2016

There are rumors that the Empire is building a great new weapon, called the Death Star. The Rebel Alliance has caught wind of that and hatches a plan to steal the plans for that weapon as they heard that there was a structural weakness that they may use to destroy it. They believe that Jyn (Felicity Jones) may be the key to success as her father (Mads Mikkelsen) seems to be involved with the planning. But Jyn hasn’t seen her father in 15 years and she’s also not all that interested in helping the Alliance. But they do reach a deal and Jyn finds herself accompanying pilot Cassian (Diego Luna) on the mission.

I will probably never be super excited about Star Wars – it’s just not my franchise. But I did enjoy Rogue One a whole lot, despite a couple of lengths it suffered from.

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