Red Notice (2021)

Red Notice
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Writer: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Ritu Arya, Chris Diamantopoulos, Ivan Mbakop
Seen on: 4.1.2022

Plot:
John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) is an FBI profiler, working together with Interpol, specifically Inspector Das (Rity Arya) to finally catch renowned art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds). Operating off a tip from the mysterious Bishop (Gal Gadot), herself an art thief, things go sideways for Hartley after he catches Booth: it looks like The Bishop set him up, too – and Hartley ends up not only in the same prison as Booth, but also in the same cell. Despite their antagonistic relationship, Hartley and Booth agree to work together to get The Bishop. But that’s easier said than done.

Red Notice is a heist movie with an Indiana Jones touch and a nice cast – so I really don’t understand why it is so very lukewarm.

The film poster showing Hartley (Dwayne Johnson), The Bishop (Gal Gadot) and Booth (Ryan Reynolds) in evening wear.
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The Countess Conspiracy (Courtney Milan)

The Countess Conspiracy is the third novel in the Brothers Sinister series by Courtney Milan.
Finished on: 4.1.2022
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]

Content Note: abuse, domestic violence, miscarriages

Plot:
Sebastian Malheur has quite a reputation, and the least of it is that he is a rake. No, he is known for his scientific endeavors about the inheritance of traits, a topic bound to rile people up. Only what people don’t know is that Sebastian is merely the public face of these theories. They are actually the work of his best friend, Violet Waterfield, the widowed Countess of Cambury. Violet would like to remain respectable and pursue her work in peace. But Sebastian needs for things to change. This causes the two of them to re-evaluate their relationship and come clean about more than just their science.

I enjoyed The Countess Conspiracy, though maybe not quite as much as I hoped I would. I just didn’t fall in love with Violet and Sebastian as a couple.

The book cover showing a white woman in a purple ball gown and white gloves.
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Encanto (2021)

Encanto
Director: Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Charise Castro Smith
Writer: Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush, Lin-Manuel Miranda (songs)
Cast: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Rhenzy Feliz, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Adassa, Maluma
Seen on: 3.1.2022

Plot:
Many years ago, Abuela (María Cecilia Botero) had to flee her home together with her husband and her three children. On their flight, her husband didn’t make it, but Abuela got a gift, a miracle that gave her and her family magic powers and a safe haven in a magical house. Now the Mardrigal family uses their gifts to keep the village going. Everybody in the family got a different gift. Everybody but Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) that is. Now it is Mirabel’s little cousin Antonio’s (Ravi Cabot-Conyers) turn, and there is a certain tension in the air. What if Antonio doesn’t get a gift either? But even after Antonio is successful, there is something wrong – and Mirabel is determined to fix everything.

Encanto is sweet, touching and fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it, its colorful world-building and characters.

The film poster showing a house wrapped in flowers and the Mardigal family in its courtyard, with Mirabel at the front.
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Holidate (2020)

Holidate
Director: John Whitesell
Writer: Tiffany Paulsen
Cast: Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, Kristin Chenoweth, Frances Fisher, Andrew Bachelor, Jessica Capshaw, Manish Dayal, Alex Moffat, Cynthy Wu, Jake Manley, Julien Marlon Samani, Nicola Peltz
Seen on: 2.1.2022

Plot:
After a brutal break-up, Sloane (Emma Roberts) is alone for Christmas, a fact that her family will never let her forget, trying to set her up anyway they can. When Sloane’s more free-spirited aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth) suggest that she should just get herself a holidate, a guy to keep her company during the holiday parties, to escape the hassle, Sloane is hesitant at first. But then she meets Jackson (Luke Bracey) who is equally fed up with dating around the holidays. They agree to try holidating for New Year’s, and since it works out rather well, they agree to continue until they have something better. But maybe there is nothing better for them than each other.

Holidate is a cute film with a few good moments, but both Sloane and Jackson remained a little too bland to make the film really memorable.

The film poster showing Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) with uncertain faical expressions standing next to a Christmas tree.
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Re-Watch: Inkheart (2008)

Inkheart
Director: Iain Softley
Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire
Based on: Cornelia Funke’s novel
Cast: Eliza Bennett, Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Sienna Guillory, Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren, Rafi Gavron, Andy Serkis, Jennifer Connelly
Seen on: 1.1.2022
[Here’s my first review of the film.]
[Here are my reviews of the entire trilogy this is based on.]

Content Note: racism

Plot:
Meggie (Eliza Bennett) and her bookbinder father Mo (Brendan Fraser) have always lived rather withdrawn lives surrounded by books, traveling around where Mo’s work is needed. This gives Mo a chance to look for a rare book. Just when he finds a copy, Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) shows up. It’s clear that he is actually an old acquaintance of Mo’s. He warns of Capricorn (Andy Serkis) and his men who are coming for Mo. Meggie and Mo immediately head towards her greataunt Elinor (Helen Mirren). But Dustfinger is right behind them as he desperately needs something from Mo: his ability to read things out of books. It’s that ability that Capricorn is looking for, too and that puts all of them in danger.

Now that I finally finished (re-)reading the trilogy, I wanted to watch the film again, too. It is still a sweet adventure film that captures the essence of the book very nicely, albeit overshooting the goal a little.

The film poster showing Mo (Brendan Fraser) reading from a book. A golden glitterwave curls up from the book, and in it are a unicorn and the other main characters.
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Miss Julie (2014)

Miss Julie
Director: Liv Ullmann
Writer: Liv Ullmann
Based on: August Strindberg‘s play
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton
Seen on: 1.1.2022

Content Note: dubious consent

Plot:
It’s midsummer night and Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain) is alone at home. That is, her father the Baron is gone and most of the servants are at the festivities, but Jean (Colin Farrell) and Kathleen (Samantha Morton) have stayed behind. Jean and Kathleen are an item and they are rather disturbed by Julie’s presence in their kitchen. Jean, with the power of propriety, tries at first to push Julie away, but when Julie, with the power of her social position, pushes back, both of them get caught in a sexually charged power struggle.

Miss Julie is an intense film with extraordinary performances that fails to subvert its heteronormative perspective in the slightest, thus becoming too hopeless for its own good.

The film poster showing Jean (Colin Farrell) standing behind Miss Julie (Jessica Chastain).
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Berthe Morisot (2012)

Berthe Morisot
Director: Caroline Champetier
Writer: Sylvie Meyer, Philippe Lasry
Based on: Beth Archer Brombert’s book Manet: Rebel in a Frock Coat
Cast: Marine Delterme, Malik Zidi, Alice Butaud, Bérangère Bonvoisin, Patrick Descamps, François Dieuaide, Jeanne Gogny, Grégory Gadebois
Seen on: 31.12.2021

Plot:
Berthe Morisot (Marine Delterme) and her sister Edma (Alice Butaud) are both very interested in painting, a passion they can both pursue as long as they stay unmarried. And that is something that they plan on. When a painting by Édouard Manet (Malik Zidi) scandalizes pretty much everyone, they are both intrigued, both by the painting and the man. Much to Edma’s disappointment, though, Manet shows more interest in Berthe.

Berthe Morisot is an overall well-made film about a woman who is often forgotten by art history. Unfortunately it seems more interested in her relationship with a man than in her person or her work.

The film poster showing Berthe Morisot (Marine Delterme) painting at the beach. The sea behind her dissolves into an impressionist painting.
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Metropolitan (1990)

Metropolitan
Director: Whit Stillman
Writer: Whit Stillman
Cast: Carolyn Farina, Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman, Taylor Nichols, Allison Parisi, Dylan Hundley, Isabel Gillies, Bryan Leder, Will Kempe, Ellia Thompson
Seen on: 31.12.2021

Plot:
It is just before Christmas and the young people of the upper class are in a party mood. On one of their outings, charismatic Nick (Chris Eigeman) just sweeps along Tom (Edward Clements) when he believes that they called for the same cab. Tom used to run in the same circles, but after his parents divorced, he doesn’t have the ressources anymore. Instead he turned to socialist politics. But surrounded by the riches, and learning that the group knows his ex-girlfriend Serena (Ellia Thompson), Tom is enticed to stay. Meanwhile, the group – above all Audrey (Carolyn Farina) – are quite affected by his presence.

Metropolitan is a witty film that takes a look at a very specific class that has been almost mythologized, and shows us that they are still only teenagers. There is room for criticism of that class, but it does take a backseat to the characters.

The film poster showing a drawing of five people in formal wear, three young women in white dresses and two young men in smokings.
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Pumpkin (Julie Murphy)

Pumpkin is a novel by Julie Murphy. It’s a companion to Dumplin’ and Puddin’.
Finished on: 31.12.2021

Plot:
Waylon Brewer is a gay, fat boy stuck in a small town. He is desperately waiting for High School to be over, so he and his twin sister Clementine can get out of there and he can actually start to be as flamboyant as he wants to be. Not that he is able to hide that he is gay, even if he wanted to. But there is “being femme” and then there is “being a sparkling queen”, and Waylon isn’t ready to be the latter in Clover City. That doesn’t keep him from creating Miss Pumpkin Patch and making an audition video for his favorite drag reality TV show though. When that video gets out and is circulated in school, it leads to him being nominated for prom queen, and Clem’s girlfriend Hannah is nominated for prom king. Waylon has a choice to make: turn himself down as much as he can, or finally go full Waylon, even if that means spending a lot of time with gorgeous, but infuriating prom king nominee Tucker.

Pumpkin is a wonderfully sweet, funny read that gives you just the right amount of fluff and romance, with a nice dose of life advice we can all take to heart a little more.

The pink book cover showing the graphic of a ginger fat boy wearing a suit, a rainbow kummerbund and red high-heels.
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Mid90s (2018)

Mid90s
Director: Jonah Hill
Writer: Jonah Hill
Cast: Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, Ryder McLaughlin
Seen on: 30.12.2021

Content Note: domestic violence, child abuse, homomisic and ableist slurs

Plot:
Stevie (Sunny Suljic) lives with his mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston) and his bigger brother Ian (Lucas Hedges). Things aren’t easy at home. Stevie gets beaten up regularly by Ian, and Dabney is rarely present, usually caught up with some man or another. When Stevie stumbles upon a group of skaters, he hopes to find the community there that he lacks at home. He takes up skating and gets to know the boys. But they are older and wilder than him.

For some reason, I thought that Mid90s would be a light-hearted film. It is not, and it disabused me of that notion within the first 30 seconds or so. Once I readjusted my expectations, I found it quite good in many ways.

The film poster showing Stevie (Sunny Suljic) photographed slightly from below against a blue sky with white clouds.
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