Trolls (2016)

Trolls
Director: Mike Mitchell, Walt Dohrn
Writer: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Based on: Thomas Dam‘s dolls
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christine Baranski, Russell Brand, Gwen Stefani, John Cleese, James Corden, Jeffrey Tambor, Ron Funches, Kunal Nayyar, Quvenzhané Wallis
Seen on: 8.4.2017

Plot:
The Trolls live a very happy life, carefree and filled with music and definitely not thinking about the Bergens who are only happy when they can eat Trolls. Nobody more so than Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick). It’s only Branch (Justin Timberlake) who refuses to sing and who fears that the Bergens will be back. Therefore he is constantly trying to prepare for that eventuality. When Poppy throws a big party that actually does attract the Bergens and a few Trolls end up taken, Poppy knows that she has to rescue them. And who could help her better than Branch?

When Trolls came out last year, I decided pretty quickly that I really wasn’t interested in it. I did have Troll dolls when I was a kid, but I was never particularly taken with them and basing a film on them just seemed weird. But my niece loves the film and she wanted to watch it with me, so I did. And it turns out, it’s actually really sweet and funny.

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The Shadow Speaker (Nnedi Okorafor)

The Shadow Speaker is a novel by Nnedi Okorafor.
Finished on: 8.4.2017

Plot:
In a post-nuclear future, Eiji lives in a small village in Nigeria. She has a difficult position there: her father used to be the dictator of the village, claiming that he did the bidding of the Red Queen, a much respected nomad. But when the Queen herself came to the village, she beheaded him instead of supporting him. In addition to her family history, Eiji also has magic powers – she is a shadow speaker, which singles her out even more. And now the Red Queen has come back to town with her two husbands and she’s about to drastically change Eiji’s life.

I enjoyed The Shadow Speaker, though I maybe didn’t like it quite as much as Zahrah the Windseeker. Eiji is a great character and the setting – that is connected to Zahrah’s world – is wonderfully unusual for Western readers.

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The Boss Baby (2017)

The Boss Baby
Director: Tom McGrath
Writer: Michael McCullers
Based on: Marla Frazee‘s book
Cast: Miles Bakshi, Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Tobey Maguire
Seen on: 7.4.2017

Plot:
So far, Tim (Miles Bakshi) has had a great life as an only child. But everything changes when his parents (Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow) bring home a little brother for Tim. Only that there is something strange about the baby (Alec Baldwin). Tim catches him talking like an adult – and a pretty obnoxious one at that – and he obviously has something planned. And maybe his plans and Tim’s wish to be an only child are actually not that different from each other.

The Boss Baby is not the greatest (children’s) film ever, but it’s cute and entertaining. The kids with me were very entertained and the adults got a couple of jokes, too.

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100 Streets (2016)

100 Streets
Director: Jim O’Hanlon
Writer: Leon Butler
Cast: Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton, Tom Cullen, Ryan Gage, Kierston Wareing, Franz Drameh, Ken Stott, Charlie Creed-Miles, Ashley Thomas
Seen on: 6.4.2017

Plot:
Within a few blocks in London, different lives intersect. Emily (Gemma Arterton) and Max (Idris Elba) have had better times as a couple. As former rugby player Max descends into drugs, adultery and aggression, Emily finds herself a new old lover in Jake (Tom Cullen). Meanwhile cab driver George (Charlie Creed-Miles) and his wife Kathy (Kierston Wareing) are trying to have a baby, but have to opt for adoption which proves to be a new challenge. And Kingsley (Franz Drameh) has been sentenced to community service at the local cemetery with caretaker Terrence (Ken Stott) who sees Kingsley’s artistic potential.

Before stumbling on 100 Streets, I thought, “A film with Idris Elba and Gemma Arterton aka two of the hottest people currently on earth who also happen to be talented as fuck and favorites of mine? HOW HAVE I NEVER HEARD OF THIS?” Having seen the film now, I know: some films are deservedly unheard of.

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Girl Asleep (2015)

Girl Asleep
Director: Rosemary Myers
Writer: Matthew Whittet
Based on: his own play
Cast: Bethany Whitmore, Harrison Feldman, Amber McMahon, Matthew Whittet, Eamon Farren, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Danielle Catanzariti
Seen on: 6.4.2017

Plot:
Greta (Bethany Whitmore) is almost 15 and just started at a new school where she is befriended by Elliott (Harrison Feldman). When her well-meaning mother (Amber McMahon) wants to help her find her social footing by throwing a birthday party for Greta and inviting everyone, Greta is mortified. Feeling the pressure of the situation and of growing up in general, it’s no surprise that some of Greta’s fantasies my run away from her a little bit.

Girl Asleep is a funny and sweet film that shines when it works with fantasies but loses a bit of its glow when it turns to more mundane moments. Nevertheless, it’s a coming-of-age film that is worth checking out even in a well-saturated genre.

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Fences (2016)

Fences
Director: Denzel Washington
Writer: August Wilson
Based on: his own play
Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola DavisStephen HendersonJovan AdepoRussell HornsbyMykelti WilliamsonSaniyya Sidney
Seen on: 6.4.2017

Plot:
Troy (Denzel Washington) and Rose (Viola Davis) have been married for a long time. Their son Cory (Jovan Adepo) is 18 and dreams of starting a football career. When a recruiter is taking interest in him, Cory is overjoyed. But Troy, who narrowly missed a career in baseball due to racist hiring practices, doesn’t allow Cory to meet with the recruiter, causing a rift in the family with his continuous attempts to control everything and everyone around him.

Fences is a beautifully acted film that has a couple of lengths and an ending that didn’t work for me, but definitely a film that drew me in regardless.

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Wives on Strike (2016)

Wives on Strike
Director: Omoni Oboli
Writer: Omoni Oboli
Cast: Omoni Oboli, Uche Jombo, Chioma Akpotha, Ufuoma Mcdermott, Kehinde Bankole, Kalu Ikeagwu, Julius Agwu, Kenneth Okonkwo
Seen on: 5.4.2017

Plot:
Mama Ngozi (Omoni Oboli), Madame 12:30 (Uche Jombo), Mama Amina (Ufuoma McDermott) and another woman (Chioma Akpotha) are market women, wives and friends. Their lives move in rather set ways, but when Amina’s husband decides to marry off their 13-year-old daughter, they are not prepared to let him get away with it. Together they hatch a plan: they will go on strike and stop fulfilling what’s expected of them as wives to make their husbands see their true value and act accordingly.

I stumbled on Wives on Strike by chance (it was one of the films the airline I flew with offered) and when I read the description, I knew I had to watch it even though there was a risk that it would be rather horrible – often especially the films that attempt to be feminist are particularly awful. But it turns out that Wives on Strike is an entertaining, proto-feminist comedy that I rather enjoyed.

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Tanna (2015)

Tanna
Director: Martin Butler, Bentley Dean
Writer: Martin Butler, Bentley Dean, John Collee
Cast: Mungau Dain, Marie Wawa, Marceline Rofit, Charlie Kahla, Albi Nangia, Lingai Kowia, Dadwa Mungau, Linette Yowayin, Kapan Cook, Mungau Yokay, Mikum Tainakou
Seen on: 4.4.2017

Plot:
On a small pacific island ruled by a volcano and the patriarchal structure of the tribes that live on it, Wawa (Marie Wawa) and Dain (Mungau Dain) are in love. But after altercations with another tribe, Dain – the Chief’s grandson – is supposed to marry a woman from that other tribe to cement their peaceful relationship. But Wawa and Dain can’t accept their separation easily.

Tanna is an unusual film that deserves to be seen, although it also has a few lengths that kept me at a bit of a distance from the film.

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A United Kingdom (2016)

A United Kingdom
Director: Amma Asante
Writer: Guy Hibbert
Based on:  Susan Williams’ book Colour Bar
Cast: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Tom Felton, Jack Davenport, Laura Carmichael, Terry Pheto, Jessica Oyelowo, Vusi Kunene, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Arnold Oceng, Abena Ayivor
Seen on: 3.4.2017

Plot:
Ruth (Rosamund Pike) works as a clerk and would mostly have a boring life if her sister (Laura Carmichael) didn’t drag her out every once in a while. On one of those outings, Ruth meets Seretse (David Oyelowo). He is charming, good-looking and taken by Ruth. But as Ruth discovers he is not just a student, but also the prince and future ruler of Bechuanaland. Despite the difficulties by their difference in status, the two want to get married, not anticipating that the real (diplomatic) scandal for both Bechuanaland and Great Britain is the fact that their relationship is an interracial one.

A United Kingdom covers a bit of history that is virtually unknown here (Austria or most likely Europe or the global North in general) and Asanta packs this fascinating story into an easily understood and emotionally engaging film with a great cast.

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Die Orestie [Oresteia]

Die Orestie
Director: Antú Romero Nunes
Writer: Aeschylus, translated by Peter Stein
Cast: Sarah Viktoria Frick, Maria Happel, Caroline Peters, Barbara Petritsch, Aenne Schwarz, Irina Sulaver, Andrea Wenzl
Seen on: 2.4.2017

Plot:
After Agamemnon (Maria Happel) returns home from war with Kassandra (Andrea Wenzl) as his trophy, his wife Klytameistra (Caroline Peters), who is living with Aigisthos (Barbara Petritsch), kills Agamemnon and Kassandra both, to avenge Agamemnon’s killing of Iphigenie, their daughter, a continuation of the family curse that weighs on Agamemnon due to his father and uncle sacrificing their own children to the gods. Agamemnon and Klytameistra’s son Orestes (Aenne Schwarz) vows to revenge the murder of his father too, continuing the spiral of blood and violence.

The production of the Oresteia walks the line between traditional setting and modern sensibilities. Ultimately it is visually striking and well-acted, but maybe a little too conservative.

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