Brown Girl Begins (2017)

Brown Girl Begins
Director: Sharon Lewis
Writer: Sharon Lewis
Cast: Mouna Traoré, Nigel Shawn Williams, Shakura S’Aida, Emmanuel Kabongo, Measha Brueggergosman, Hannah Chantée, Alli Chung, Rachael Crawford
Seen on: 17.7.2018

Plot:
Toronto 2049: The rich have barricaded themselves in the city, exiling the poor to an island called The Burn. Ti-Jeanne (Mouna Traoré) is one of the inhabitants of the island, set to follow her grandmother Mami (Shakura S’Aida) as the priestess who leads the island people. But that succession includes a possession ritual – and that very ritual killed Ti-Jeanne’s mother. So it doesn’t seem suprising that she would rather run away with Tony (Emmanuel Kabongo). But one can’t really run away from one’s legacy – especially when it takes the form of Papa Legba (Nigel Shawn Williams).

It probably can’t get more low-budget than Brown Girl Begins and that’s pretty visible. But it’s also entirely irrelevant because the film tells a good story and it tells it well. You don’t need more than that. It’s innovative and traditional at the same time – and definitely creative.

The film poster showing Mouna Traoré in front of a blue background witjy sjy and a city skyline.
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Proud Mary (2018)

Proud Mary
Director: Babak Najafi
Writer: John Stuart Newman, Christian Swegal, Steve Antin
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Billy Brown, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Neal McDonough, Margaret Avery, Xander Berkeley, Rade Serbedzija, Erik LaRay Harvey, Danny Glover
Seen on: 17.7.2018

Plot:
Mary (Taraji P. Henson) is a contract killer and a damn good one. She never had any problems with doing her job but after she shoots Marcus Miller, she discovers that he has a son, Danny (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) – and she finds that she can’t let him go, watching him from afar. Danny’s circumstances haven’t become better since his father’s death. He lives on his own and became involved in drug dealing, working for Uncle (Xander Berkeley). But when things go south on one of his deals, Mary steps in and takes Danny under her wing. The thing is that she does so by upending the entire balance of Boston’s underworld.

I was really looking forward to Proud Mary – and disappointed that it never made it to cinemas in Austria. Now that I’ve seen it, I understand why it was buried, though. It really doesn’t work.

The film poster showing Taraji P. Henson's face in pink-and-white, with characters and scenes from the film arranged around her head to make an afro, also in pink-and-white.
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Turning Point (Steph Swainston)

Turning Point is a collection of short stories set in the Fourlands, written by Steph Swainston.
[Here are my reviews of the other books.]
Finished on: 15.7.2018

Turning Point collects four short stories set in the Fourlands told from different perspectives and about different people, plus there are two maps and a family tree to provide more details about the Fourlands. It’s a very nice collection for fans of the Fourlands.

The book cover with the letters of Turning Point stretched out over the entire page in front of a red background with black smoke. The Ns are facing the wrong way.

Read more about each of the stories after the jump.

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Skyscraper (2018)

Skyscraper
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Writer: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han , Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell, Hannah Quinlivan, Kevin Rankin
Seen on: 12.7.2018

Plot:
Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) used to work for the FBI and he is a veteran, but now he leads a calmer life, assessing the security of skyscrapers. His last assignment brought him, his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and their children( McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell) to Hongkong to inspect the world’s tallest building – The Pearl. A passion project of Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), the building boasts everything you could possibly hope for on a staggering 225 floors. But just as Sawyer is about to clear the building, fire breaks out. Sawyer’s family is trapped inside and Sawyer himself is blamed. He now only has a very limited time to save them, clear his own name and find out who is trying to gain from the fire.

Skyscraper keeps its promises, as I have come to expect from Dwayne Johnson movies: that is, it’s a fun action movie with a decent amount of explosions and quips that sets out to entertain and it does.

Filmposter showing Dwayne Johnson jumping from a crane towards a burning skyscraper.
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A Discovery of Witches (Deborah Harkness) – DNF

A Discovery of Witches is the first novel of the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness.
Quit on: 12.7.2018

Plot:
Diana Bishop has spent her entire life with science. History of science to be exact. Anything to escape her own heritage: because Diana is a witch. That she really doesn’t want to be one, becomes irrelevant though when she stumbles upon an old manuscript that was thought to be lost. Her discovery leads her to Matthew Clairmont, a vampire who has spent his not inconsiderable lifespan looking for that manuscript. As Diana has to come to terms with her own magical powers, she also has to come to terms with her attraction to Matthew – a connection that is not allowed in the magical world.

I quit reading A Discovery of Witches after around 300 pages or so. I just couldn’t take it anymore. It’s not that it was unreadable – in fact, it was pretty well written – but it was basically an endless succession of exhausting, hateful tropes.

Book cover showing a historical building in black and white and red smoke or maybe silk bands in the sky above it.
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Love, Simon (2018)

Love, Simon
Director: Greg Berlanti
Writer: Elizabeth Berger, Isaac Aptaker,
Based on: Becky Albertalli‘s novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Cast: Nick Robinson, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Logan Miller, Keiynan Lonsdale, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Talitha Eliana Bateman
Seen on: 12.7.2018

Plot:
Simon (Nick Robinson) could and should be living a care-free life. He has a nice family (Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, Talitha Eliana Bateman), great friends (Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) and school is going pretty well, too. But there’s one thing that is weighing on his mind: Simon is gay. He has never told anyone. When another boy comes out as gay under the pseudonym “Blue”, Simon starts messaging him – an exchange that has far bigger consequences than he ever thought.

Love, Simon is a cute, feel good movie that would be pretty run of the mill if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s about a gay teenager. It could have been more revolutionary, but we also need the sweet, inconsequential stuff in queer and not just in straight, so I definitely enjoyed it.

Film poster showing Nick Robinson in front of a red background.
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Re-Watch: Body of Evidence (1992)

Body of Evidence
Director: Uli Edel
Writer: Brad Mirman
Cast: Madonna, Willem Dafoe, Joe Mantegna, Anne Archer, Michael Forest, Julianne Moore, Frank Langella, Jürgen Prochnow
Seen on: 9.7.2018

Plot:
When millionaire Andrew Marsh (Joe Mantegna) is found dead from a heart attack, handcuffed to his bed with a sex tape of him and his lover Rebecca (Madonna), suspicions immediately fall on her to have purposefully fucked him to death. When it’s discovered that she stands to inherit a lot of money from him, suspicions turn into criminal charges and Rebecca is arrested despite her protestations of innocence. Her lawyer Frank (Willem Dafoe) is very much drawn to her and even while he starts to investigate the case, the two start an affair.

Body of Evidence is sensationalist crap. With a bit of a more feminist and less voyeuristic/fetishistic tendency, it could have gone in the direction of Gone Girl, but instead we got objectification and misogyny. It’s literally hateful.

Film Poster shwoing Madonna laying on a pillow, apparently naked.

[SPOILERS]

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The King (2017)

The King
Director: Eugene Jarecki
Writer: Eugene Jarecki, Christopher St. John
Seen on: 5.7.2018

“Plot”:
40 years after Elvis’ death, Eugene Jarecki goes on a road trip with Elvis’ car. Visiting important places in Elvis’ life, meeting musicians , they trace both Elvis’ life and career and the rise and fall of the USA that seems to run parallel.

The King is a strong, interesting documentary that takes a critical look at the USA and Elvis himself. Especially the latter is way too rare and bitterly needed, so for that alone it is worth it. It’s not the only thing the film has going for itself though.

Film poster showing Elvis Presley's silhoutte against a sunset above his car driving on a straight road.
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On Chesil Beach (2017)

On Chesil Beach
Director: Dominic Cooke
Writer: Ian McEwan
Based on: his own novel
Cast: Billy Howle, Saoirse Ronan, Anne-Marie Duff, Adrian Scarborough, Emily Watson,
Samuel West
Seen on: 5.7.2018

Content note: (sexualized) abuse

Plot:
Edward (Billy Howle) and Florence (Saoirse Ronan) come from different backgrounds – Edward being working class and Florence more upper class. That hasn’t kept them from falling in love, though. Now they finally got married and have reached the beach where they’re supposed to spend their honeymoon. But with the wedding night and associated pressures looming over them, they are not really at ease.

On Chesil Beach is pretty much feel bad cinema with sharply observed characters and relationships. It wasn’t quite as depressing as I feared it would be, nor was it as good as I hoped it would be. It is very far from bad, though.

Film poster showing Billy Howle and Saoirse Ronan on a beach, looking in opposite directions.
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Euphoria (2017)

Euphoria
Director: Lisa Langseth
Writer: Lisa Langseth
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Eva Green, Charles Dance, Charlotte Rampling, Mark Stanley, Adrian Lester, August Zirner
Seen on: 4.7.2018

Content Note: (assisted) suicide

Plot:
Emilie (Eva Green) and Ines (Alicia Vikander) are sisters who haven’t seen each other in a long time. Emilie has organized a holiday for the both of them, promising that they’ll visit the most beautiful place on earth. Ines is suspicious, but the two start their journey. Slowly both Emilie’s plans and the frail relationship between the two sisters come to light.

Euphoria is a touching film with great actresses that is a success when it comes to portraying the relationship of the two sisters and less successful regarding the big topic it tackles: assisted suicide.

Film poster showing Alicia Vikander and Eva Green in profile, looking in different directions.

[Slight SPOILERS]

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