In the Heart of the Sea (2015)

In the Heart of the Sea
Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Charles Leavitt
Based on: Nathaniel Philbrick‘s book In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, Michelle Fairley, Tom Holland, Paul Anderson, Frank Dillane, Joseph MawleJordi Mollà
Seen on: 9.12.2015

Plot:
Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) finds the last survivor of the Whaleship Essex, Thomas Nickerson (Brendan Gleeson) and interviews him about what happened out there. Nickerson tells him how Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth), who was promised a capitaincy by the whaling company, gets sidelined in favor of George Pollard (Benjamin Walker), an inexperienced young captain who brings the right pedigree to the table. Chase is pressured into being Pollard’s first mate and despite strong tension between the two men, they set out to go whale hunting. But pretty much everything that can go wrong on the whaling trip, does.

When I saw the first trailer for In the Heart of the Sea, I thought that it was actually a prequel movie for Moby Dick. Turns out, that’s not true: instead it’s the fictionalized story of the real life ship wreck that to some extent inspired Melville to write Moby Dick. And while I don’t care much for Moby Dick itself, so I have the suspicion that I wouldn’t have liked a prequel story better. At least if it was a boring reiteration of a story we’ve seen a million times alread like this film turned out to be.

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Love the Coopers (2015)

Love the Coopers
Director: Jessie Nelson
Writer: Steven Rogers
Cast: Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Alex Borstein, Timothée Chalamet, Maxwell Simkins, Blake Baumgartner, Amanda Seyfried, Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, Jake Lacy, June Squibb, Anthony Mackie, Steve Martin
Seen on: 9.12.2015

Plot:
Christmas is just around the corner and Charlotte Cooper (Diane Keaton) is preparing for Christmas dinner with her family – her father Bucky (Alan Arkin), her sister Emma (Marisa Tomei), her husband Sam (John Goodman) and their children Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) and Hank (Ed Helms) including his currently-divorcing wife Angie (Alex Borstein) and their children Charlie (Timothée Chalamet), Bo (Maxwell Simkins) and Madison (Blake Baumgartner). But not all is well with the Coopers: Sam wants to separate from Charlotte but has promised one last Christmas without the family knowing. Emma gets caught shoplifting. Bucky’s closest relationship – with waitress Ruby (Amanda Seyfried) – is threatened when Ruby tells him she will leave town. Hank has lost his job in addition to the divorce and doesn’t want to let his family know. And Eleanor would rather spend the day at the airport than one minute longer than necessary with her family. There she meets soldier Joe (Jake Lacy) and hits it off with him.

Love the Coopers is exactly what you’d expect from an USAmerican Christmas family movie. It’s basically trivial, but rather nice to watch.

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Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre
Director: Sally Cookson
Devised by: the cast and the director
Based on: Charlotte Brontë’s novel
Cast: Madeleine Worrall, Felix Haye, Craig Edwards, Melanie Marshall, Laura Elphinstone
Seen on: 8.12.2015

Plot:
Jane Eyre (Madeleine Worrall) is an orphan, growing up with her aunt Mrs Reed, who treats her rather badly. When Jane shows signs of rebellion against this treatment when she’s ten, she is sent to boarding school. 8 years later she leaves there to take up a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall, which belongs to Mr. Rochester (Felix Haye). Jane and Rochester quickly connect with each other – but there is a secret in Thornfield Hall.

Jane Eyre is an incredibly earnest production. I felt reminded of more than one youth theatre productions I saw that tries very hard and very seriously to teach you something about life by knocking you over the head with symbolism. A lack of cynism can be extremely nice but when handled with the subtlety of a battle axe, it becomes tiring and annoying. It worked so little for me, it was practically painful.

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Varieté (1925) + The Tiger Lillies

Varieté
Director: Ewald André Dupont
Writer: Ewald André Dupont
Based on: Felix Hollaender’s novel Der Eid des Stephan Huller
Cast: Emil Jannings, Maly Delschaft, Lya De Putti, Warwick Ward
Part of: Film and Music Cycle in the Konzerthaus
With music by: The Tiger Lillies
Seen on: 3.12.2015

Plot:
Boss Huller (Emil Jannings) is an artist at the circus together with his wife (Maly Delschaft), but after an accident he started to stay away from the trapeze. When young woman Bertha-Marie (Lya De Putti) is brought to the circus because she has debts she can’t pay otherwise, she finds a bed with the family Huller. It doesn’t take long until she and Boss fall in love and Boss uproots his entire life for her. But things are not headed for a happy end.

Varieté is not only an excellent film, combined with the soundtrack by The Tiger Lillies, it makes for an utterly fantastic, riveting evening.

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The Winter’s Tale

The Winter’s Tale
Director: Kenneth Branagh, Rob Ashford
Writer: William Shakespeare
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Miranda Raison, John Shrapnel, Hadley Fraser, Tom Bateman, Jessie Buckley, Michael Pennington
Seen on: 26.11.2015

Plot:
Leontes (Kenneth Branagh), King of Sicily, is visited by his old friend Polixenes (Hadley Fraser), King of Bohemia. When Polixenes wants to leave, Leontes asks his pregnant wife Hermione (Miranda Raison) to convince him to stay. When she succeeds, Leontes believes it’s because she and Polixenes have an affair. Convinced that the child isn’t his, Leontes tries to poison Polixenes and imprisons Hermione, setting events in motion that will have consequences for years to come.

The Winter’s Tale is a mixed bag of beans. While I enjoyed much about it and it really was a high quality production, there were so many unnecessary things that kept adding length when I was hoping for speed that the overall effect was rather meh.

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Gran Torino (2008)

Gran Torino
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Nick Schenk
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her, Brian Haley, Geraldine Hughes, Dreama Walker, Brian Howe, Christopher Carley, John Carroll Lynch
Seen on: 25.11.2015

Plot:
Walt (Clint Eastwood) just lost his wife and the rest of his family – his children and grandchildren – doesn’t particularly like him and vice versa. Mostly Walt is being stubborn about everything which means that he is practically the only white person left in a neighborhood increasingly inhabited by Hmong people, despite the fact that Walt is virulently racist. When the neighbors’ kid Thao (Bee Vang), pressured by a local gang, tries to steal Walt’s car, a pristine Gran Torino, Walt catches him. Thao’s family insists that Thao make it up to Walt and they slowly grow closer.

Gran Torino is a hypermasculine, sexist and racist catastrophe of a movie. To add insult to injury, it’s even boring. In short, it completey re-affirmed to me why I usually hate Eastwood films.

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The Gift (2015)

The Gift
Director: Joel Edgerton
Writer: Joel Edgerton
Cast: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, Allison Tolman, Tim Griffin, Busy Philipps
Seen on: 24.11.2015

Plot:
After a miscarriage, Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) decided that they need a fresh start. So they move from Chicago to California, close to where Simon grew up. By chance they run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton) who used to go to school with Simon. Simon doesn’t recognize him at first and is generally reluctant, but Gordo is undeterred in his friendliness. He brings over gifts and Robyn invites him to dinner. But there seems to be more going on than just Gordo’s friendly strangeness.

The Gift is a sleek little thriller. It probably won’t write cinematic history, but it manages to create enough tension to be thoroughly engaging throughout.

thegift

[Vague SPOILERS]

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Mia madre [My Mother] (2015)

Mia madre
Director: Nanni Moretti
Writer: Nanni Moretti, Francesco Piccolo, Valia Santella
Cast: Margherita Buy, John Turturro, Giulia Lazzarini, Nanni Moretti
Seen on: 23.11.2015

Plot:
Director Margherita (Margherita Buy) is working on her latest cinematic project. The film features American actor Barry Huggins (John Turturro) whose arrival brings quite a bit of excitement to the shoot. As if it wasn’t stressful enough without that. At the same time, Margherita’s mother Ada (Giulia Lazaarini) is continuously doing worse. Margherita and her brother Giovanni (Nanni Moretti) have to face the fact that she probably won’t live much longer.

Mia madre is a film where nothing much happens. At times that does become a little exhausting, but most of the time, I very much enjoyed the film and myself.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writer: Peter Craig, Danny Strong
Based on: Suzanne Collins’ novel (the second half)
Sequel to: The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald SutherlandPhilip Seymour HoffmanJulianne Moore, Stanley Tucci, Sam Claflin, Jena MaloneWillow ShieldsPaula Malcomson, Mahershala Ali, Jeffrey Wright, Natalie Dormer, Gwendoline Christie
Seen on: 22.11.2015

Plot [with Spoilers for everything up until this part]:
Still reeling from brainwashed Peeta’s (Josh Hutcherson) attack on her, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has no chance of really gathering herself. Instead she shoots promo videos for the rebellion and their cause. As outright war with the Capitol becomes ever more likely, Katniss decides that she has to put an end to things and the only way it will end is if Katniss kills President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

My expectations were pretty low for this final installation in the series since the second half of the last book was the weakest part of the series by far and that was the only thing that was left to bring to the screen. But Mockingjay Part 2 turned out to be better than I expected.

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