Angry Indian Goddesses (2015)

Angry Indian Goddesses
Director: Pan Nalin
Writer: Pan Nalin, Subhadra MahajanDilip ShankarArsala Qureishi
Cast: Sarah-Jane DiasRajshri DeshpandeSandhya MridulAmrit MagheraPavleen GujralAnushka ManchandaTannishtha Chatterjee
Seen on: 19.6.2016

Plot:
Photographer Frieda (Sarah-Jane Dias) has invited her closest friends to her home in Goa, where she lives with her housekeeper Lakshmi (Rajshri Deshpande). There’s Su (Sandhya Mridul) who lives for her career and arrives with her daughter who she raises alone. There’s Nargis (Tannishtha Chatterjee) who turns out to be an activist causing Su’s business quite a bit of trouble. There’s Jo (Amrit Maghera) who dreams of making it big as an actress but struggles with her roles and her British accent. There’s Pammy (Pavleen Gujral) who seems to love being a housewife. And finally, there’s Mad (Anushka Manchanda), a musician who likes living wild. They don’t know why Frieda has invited them, but take full advantage to catch up with each other and their lives.

Angry Indian Goddesses tries to cram pretty much the entirety of the feminist debate in India into one film – and still be funny, at least most of the time. That is a large order to fill and it works surprisingly well.

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Sky (2015)

Sky
Director: Fabienne Berthaud
Writer: Fabienne Berthaud, Pascal Arnold
Cast: Diane KrugerNorman ReedusGilles LelloucheLena DunhamQ’orianka KilcherLou Diamond PhillipsJoshua JacksonLaurene Landon
Seen on: 19.6.2016

Plot:
Romy (Diane Kruger) is on holidays with her husband Richard (Gilles Lellouche). But as they travel through the USA together, all of their old conflicts keep on bubbling up and finally Romy has had it. When one of their fights turns physical, she is sure that she has killed Richard – and flees. She ends up in Las Vegas without any money, but helped by Charlene (Laurene Landon). And then she meets Diego (Norman Reedus) and falls for him hard and fast, despite not knowing anything about him.

Sky tells a story of incredibly dubious choices. And while those stories can be very interesting, it appears that they didn’t realize in the film just how dubious everything is and instead want us to applaud the various turns of events that made me shudder more than anything else. Oh, and it’s racist.

sky

[SPOILERS]

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The Conjuring 2 (2016)

The Conjuring 2
Director: James Wan
Writer: Carey HayesChad Hayes, James Wan, David Leslie Johnson
Based on: a case from Ed and Lorraine Warren
Sequel to: The Conjuring
Cast: Patrick WilsonVera FarmigaMadison WolfeFrances O’ConnorLauren EspositoBenjamin HaighPatrick McAuleySimon McBurneyMaria Doyle KennedySimon DelaneyFranka PotenteSteve CoulterJoseph Bishara
Seen on: 17.6.2016

Plot:
After what happened in Amityville Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) have agreed to take things slowly and not take on any new cases – at the request of Lorraine who has been having visions and premonitions, and none of the good kind. But when they hear about a case of single mother Peggy (Frances O’Connor) who have been having troubles since moving to a new house, most of all with daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe), the Warrens agree to travel to London to see them and, most likely, debunk whatever is going on. But things turn out differently than they thought.

I very much loved The Conjuring and pretty much all the horror films Wan did so far, so my expectations for The Conjuring 2 were high indeed – and I wasn’t disappointed at all. It’s scary and funny and thoroughly effective.

theconjuring-2

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Fathers & Daughters (2015)

Fathers & Daughters
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Writer: Brad Desch
Cast: Russell CroweAmanda SeyfriedAaron PaulDiane KrugerQuvenzhané WallisBruce GreenwoodJanet McTeerKylie RogersJane FondaOctavia Spencer
Seen on: 17.6.2016

Plot:
Jake Davis (Russell Crowe) is an award-winning writer with a lovely daughter, Katie (Kylie Rogers). But after his wife dies, he falls apart. While he tries to get better in a psychiatric facility, Katie goes to live with her aunt Elizabeth (Diane Kruger) and uncle William (Bruce Greenwood). Even after Jake returns, things are far from easy.
Many years later, Katie (Amanda Seyfried) works as a counselor for kids like Lucy (Quvenzhané Wallis), even though she obviously has many issues of her own. When she meets Cameron (Aaron Paul), those issues might destroy everything.

I had little to no expectations regarding Fathers & Daughters, but I was still taken aback by it. It is perfectly obvious why this move tanked as much as it did. It probably should have tanked more.

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Vor der Morgenröte [Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe] (2016)

Vor der Morgenröte
Director: Maria Schrader
Writer: Maria Schrader, Jan Schomburg
Cast: Josef Hader, Aenne SchwarzBarbara SukowaMatthias BrandtCharly HübnerTómas LemarquisLenn KudrjawizkiHarvey FriedmanNicolau BreynerIvan ShvedoffAndré SzymanskiValerie PachnerDaniel Puente Encina
Seen on: 16.6.2016

Plot:
Stefan Zweig (Josef Hader) is a successful writer of wide renown. As an Austrian Jew, he decided to leave Europe behind after Hitler’s rise to power and now lives in Brazil with his wife Lotte (Aenne Schwarz). But the political situation in Europe follows him even into his exile, as people all seem to expect something of him, a statement, taking position, outright help – and Zweig really doesn’t know how to handle this pressure as his attempts to distance himself from everything continue to fail.

Vor der Morgenröte captures an awkward, uncomfortable atmosphere perfectly and tells a World War 2 story from a perspective that is unusual, and definitely fascinating.

vordermorgenroete

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Exit… nur keine Panik [Exit… But No Panic] (1980)

Exit… nur keine Panik
Director: Franz Novotny
Writer: Gustav Ernst, Franz Novotny
Cast: Hanno PöschlPaulus MankerIsolde BarthEddie ConstantineUlli NeumannKurt KrenKonrad BeckerPeter TurriniErnst Schmidt Jr.Peter PatzakPeter WeibelCurt A. TichyHans-Georg Nenning

Seen on: 15.6.2016

Plot:
Kirchhoff (Hanno Pöschl) has big dreams: he wants to open his own café. All he needs is his coffee machine and some funds to get going. And a place to rent. And… but instead of really going for it, he rather spends his time with his buddy Plachinger (Paulus Manker), hitting on women and coursing through Vienna, stumbling from one bit of trouble to the next, always ready to explode as long as it doesn’t get boring or serious.

Exit… nur keine Panik is a coarse film, often (but not always) charming in this coarseness. Charming or not, it is entertaining.

exitnurkeinepanik

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Director: Burr Steers
Writer: Burr Steers
Based on: Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel, which is in turn an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel
Cast: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Suki Waterhouse, Douglas Booth, Sally Phillips, Charles Dance, Jack Huston, Lena Headey, Matt Smith, Emma Greenwell
Seen on: 12.6.2016

Plot:
Early 19th century, England: A strange plague has befallen the land and the dead are rising. In the middle of all this confusion is the Bennett family. Mr Bennett (Charles Dance) has trained his daughters Elizabeth (Lily James), Jane (Bella Heathcote), Lydia (Ellie Bamber), Mary (Millie Brady) and Kitty (Suki Waterhouse) in the deadly arts, but their mother (Sally Phillips) tries everything to get them married. So it is just as well, when two new young men enter their social lives – Mr Bingley (Douglas Booth), amiable and sweet and Mr Darcy (Sam Riley), arrogant and proud. Will the Bennett sisters find their perfect guys and not get eaten by unmentionables?

After my experience with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I was very much prepared for needing all my sarcasm and irony (and alcohol) to enjoy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Turns out that many of my fears were unfunded – P&P&Z is often intentionally hilarious, even if it does have some weaknesses.

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Grandma (2015)

Grandma
Director: Paul Weitz
Writer: Paul Weitz
Cast: Lily Tomlin, Julia Garner, Judy Greer, John Cho, Nat Wolff, Laverne Cox, Elizabeth Peña, Sam Elliott, Marcia Gay Harden
Part of: identities Festival special screening
Seen on: 10.6.2016

Plot:
Elle (Lily Tomlin) is not necessarily in the best of places. She has no money. She just broke up with her girlfriend Olivia (Judy Greer). And then her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) stands at her door and lets her know that she’s pregnant and needs an abortion. Sage and Elle are in complete agreement that Sage’s mother (Marcia Gay Harden) can never find out. So what is a penniless grandmother to do? She grabs Sage, starts the car and goes in search of money to fulfill her granddaughter’s needs. Even if it costs her whatever remains of her dignity.

Grandma is a different kind of road movie with a great concept that lives off grumpy Lily Tomlin and her sharp comic delivery. I enjoyed it immensely.

grandma

[Slight Spoilers]

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Truth (2015)

Truth
Director: James Vanderbilt
Writer: James Vanderbilt
Based on: Mary Mapes‘ book Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach, John Benjamin Hickey, David Lyons, Dermot Mulroney, Rachael Blake, Andrew McFarlane
Seen on: 9.6.2016

Plot:
Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) is a producer on CBS’ 60 Minutes, hosted by Dan Rather (Robert Redford). They get wind of a story that George Bush Jr may have received favorable treatment in the army which kept him out of harm’s way and could considerably hurt his run for the presidency. They investigate and despite a few incongruencies decide to go ahead and report on the story. It doesn’t take long, though, for serious doubts to arise as to the veracity of the story and the supporting documents. Quickly, Mary finds herself under heavy fire.

Truth is a decent film carried by Blanchett, but it fundamentally misunderstands the quest it is on, which does throw a wrench in its own works.

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The Neon Demon (2016)

The Neon Demon
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer: Nicolas Winding Refn, Mary Laws, Polly Stenham
Cast: Elle FanningJena MaloneBella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Karl Glusman, Desmond Harrington, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Alessandro Nivola
Seen on: 8.6.2016

Plot:
Jesse (Elle Fanning) just moved to L.A., dreaming of a career as a model. She meets photographer Dean (Karl Glusman) and make-up artist Ruby (Jena Malone) who both take a shine to her and try to help. Since there is something about Jesse, that seems barely necessary though – her career is definitely off to a good start. But young girls like Jesse are quickly swallowed by the fashion world and grow older too fast – which is what happened to Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee), who can’t stand Jesse waiting in the wings to take their place.

The Neon Demon is a hypnotizing film that manages to conjure up an intriguing atmosphere that kept me glued to my seat. But – as with Drive – it only worked for me because I read it completely different from what Refn apparently intended to say.

theneondemon

[SPOILERS]

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