Re-Read: Good Omens (Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett)

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch is a novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
Finished on: 28.6.2019
[Here’s my first review.]

Content Note: racism, sexism

The angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley have spent a lot of time on earth, doing their respective duties and have got pretty comfortable here. So when the news reaches them that the Antichrist is about to be born and the apocalypse is drawing closer, they are not really happy about it. But Crowley sets things in motion, as they are supposed to be set in motion, though coincidence seems to have a hand in it as well. But it has all been predicted by Agnes Nutter, a witch who died a while back, but still has an heir in Anathema Device who keeps up the family tradition. While the Horsemen of the Apocalypse start to gather, it turns out that the boy everybody thought was the Antichrist was actually switched at birth and nobody really knows where the Antichrist really is.

It doesn’t feel that long that I read the book, but I had forgotten a lot about it. But in this case that is absolutely great because it meant I could enjoy much of it as if I actually read it for the first time. And there is certainly a lot to enjoy.

The book cover showing a child with spread arms below a dark and a light figure, drawn in a style that is slightly reminiscent of old religious drawings.
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Pirmdzimtais [Firstborn] (2017)

Director: Aik Karapetian
Writer: Aik Karapetian
Cast: Maija Doveika, Kaspars Znotins, Dainis Grube, Kaspars Zale
Seen on: 28.6.2019
[Screener Review.]

Katrina (Maija Doveika) and Francis (Kaspars Znotins) have been a couple for a while and things can be a little tense between them. When they are assaulted by a biker (Kaspars Zale), they are both pretty shellshocked. Katrina turns to a police officer for help, leaving Francis feeling inadequate: he couldn’t stop the assault in the first place and now he isn’t even good enough to help afterwards. Determined to prove his worth, he seeks out the biker himself, but their confrontation goes differently than planned.

Firstborn has a strong first half, but then lost me in the second half, unfortunately, when it becomes muddled, confusing and a little boring. But there’s a lot of material for thought about masculinity in the film, so that’s something.

The film poster showing Maija Doveika and Kaspars Znotins.
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The Volunteer (2013)

The Volunteer
Director: Vicky Wight
Writer: Vicky Wight
Cast: Aunjanue Ellis, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Scott Wolf, Hill Harper, Eisa Davis, Mary Beth Hurt, Noah Gray-Cabey, Will Janowitz
Seen on: 26.6.2019

Leigh (Aunjanue Ellis) hasn’t been happy in her job, and her marriage to Phil (Hill Harper), for a while. When she finally quits her job, things don’t get any better, though, and Leigh seems even more lost than before. Until she just walks into a soup kitchen run by Jimmy (Scott Wolf) and decides to volunteer there. It gives her a purpose at first, and then she meets Ethan (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), one of the homeless guys whoe come to eat there. Leigh feels drawn to him and the freedom he represents, but when their relationship becomes an affair, things become very complicated.

The Volunteer is clear about being a film that is all about a woman finding back to herself by way of a homeless man, but just because the film knows that that’s the story it tells, didn’t make the instrumentalization of said homeless man any more comfortable for me. And so I remained at a distance to the film that was ultimately detrimental to my enjoyment of it.

The film poster showing Leigh (Aunjanue Ellis) wearing a shapless gray coat in a blurry green landscape.
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The Experiment (2010)

The Experiment
Director: Paul T. Scheuring
Writer: Paul T. Scheuring
Remake of: Das Experiment
Based on: Stanford prison experiment
Cast: Adrien Brody, Forest Whitaker, Cam Gigandet, Clifton Collins Jr., Ethan Cohn, Fisher Stevens, Travis Fimmel, David Banner, Jason Lew
Seen on: 26.6.2019

Content Note: homomisia, orientalism

Travis (Adrien Brody) is a pacifist in need of money. That’s why he agrees to participate in a study that simulates a prison to find out about the violent tendencies of people. He and 19 others get put into two groups of prisoners, while 6 men, among them Helweg (Travis Fimmel) get appointed as guards. They all get a set of rules to follow and things are on their way. But pretty soon, the “guards” turn vicious and the “prisoners” have to fight for basically their lives.

The Stanford prison experiment is a famous sociopsychological study that has seen its fair share of criticism, but has nevertheless persisted in its claim to fame. The Experiment takes that real-life science project, dials the bad things about it up to eleven and believes it has something meaningful to say about the human condition in that way. In short, it is a very bad film.

The film poster showing Travis (Adrien Brody) holding on to iron bars.
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Aladdin (2019)

Director: Guy Ritchie
Writer: John August, Guy Ritchie
Remake of: Aladdin
Cast: Mena Massoud, Naomi Scott, Will Smith, Marwan Kenzari, Navid Negahban, Nasim Pedrad, Billy Magnussen, Jordan A. Nash, Taliyah Blair, Aubrey Lin, Amir Boutrous, Numan Acar, Alan Tudyk
Seen on: 24.6.2019

Content Note: orientalism, brownfacing

Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is poor and often has to steal to survive. When he meets a handmaiden of the Princess at the market, he takes a liking to her, not knowing the handmaiden is actually Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) herself. When he visits her in the palace, he is caught and the king’s advisor Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) realizes that Aladdin is just the man he needs to retrieve a magic lamp from an enchanted cave. Things don’t work out the way either man thought, and it’s Aladdin who ends up with the Genie (Will Smith) who resides in the lamp and promises Aladdin that he can win Jasmine – with his help.

Aladdin was generally unnecessary as a remake. The old one would have continued to be enough. But since they did it, at least it is entertaining – if you can look past the fact that it’s still pure orientalism.

The film poster showing Alddin (Mena Massoud) holding a magic lamp in his hands, a monkey on his shoulder. Behind him are Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) and the Genie (Will Smith), as well as a small Jafar (Marwan Kenzari). Below him is a flying capret and treasure.
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Cam (2018)

Director: Daniel Goldhaber
Writer: Isa Mazzei
Cast: Madeline Brewer, Patch Darragh, Melora Walters, Devin Druid, Imani Hakim, Michael Dempsey, Flora Diaz, Samantha Robinson, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Quei Tann, Linda Griffin
Seen on: 23.6.2019

Alice (Madeline Brewer) works as a camgirl. She is pretty good at it and hopes to reach the Top 50 of the site she is on soon. She is not beyond some tricks, one involving one of her fans, Tinker (Patch Darragh) and she climbs the ranks pretty quickly. But the site is competitive and it’s not easy. The one day, Alice finds that somebody else is running her account. Someone who looks just like her and moves like her – but definitely isn’t her. Now Alice has more to fight for than just her space at the top.

Cam is a decent thriller with a very good main actor. It nicely builds tension and, even if you shouldn’t think about it too hard, it works very well.

The film poster showing Alice (Madeline Brewer), one half of her face starting to doubling, distorted and glitching.
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Je ne suis pas un homme facile [I Am Not an Easy Man] (2018)

Je ne suis pas un homme facile
Director: Eléonore Pourriat
Writer: Ariane Fert, Eléonore Pourriat
Cast: Vincent Elbaz, Marie-Sophie Ferdane, Pierre Benezit, Blanche Gardin, Céline Menville, Christèle Tual, Rémi Gérard, Olivier Pajot
Seen on: 22.6.2019

Content Note: (critical treatment of) sexism, misogyny, rape culture

Damien (Vincent Elbaz) is a Casanova – sleeping with any woman he can sleep with, with little interest to get to know them beyond sex. And he probably would have continued that way if he hadn’t run into a street sign. When he wakes up, Damien finds himself in a world that is completely unlike the one he remembers. Here, women are the ones in charge and men are seen as the weaker sex. So it is that Alexandra (Marie-Sophie Ferdane) who Damien remembers to be his best friend and writer Christophe’s (Pierre Benezit) secretary is the famous author used to order men around. Nevertheless, she and Damien find a connection.

Je ne suis pas un homme facile openly tackles a feminist topic that will always get a film bonus points. It handles it pretty well and is entertaining while it’s at it, though I found the ending a tad disappointing.

The film poster showing Alexandra (Marie-Sophie Ferdane) and Damien (Vincent Elbaz) standing back to back.
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Fellside (M.R. Carey)

Fellside is a novel by M.R. Carey.
Finished on: 21.6.2019

Jess Moulson is one of the inmates at Fellside prison. She was convicted of arson and murder after a fire that started in her apartment killed another inhabitant of the house, all while Jess was out on heroin. That other inhabitant? Alex Beech, a 10-year-old boy. Ridden by guilt, Jess is ready to shuffle of this mortal coil herself, when she is visited by Alex’ ghost who tells her that he was already dead when the fire started, but he seems to be confused about what happened. Jess promises him that she will find out what really happened. Easier said than done as she is still an inmate in a high security prison.

Fellside isn’t bad, but I was far from loving it as much as I loved all his other stuff so far. It is a decent read, but it didn’t leave me as excited as The Girl with All the Gifts or The Unwritten.

The book cover showing a dead branch in front of a foggy blue background. In the distance we can just make out a big building.
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Men in Black: International (2019)

Men in Black: International
Director: F. Gary Gray
Writer: Matt Holloway, Art Marcum
Based on: Lowell Cunningham‘s comic
Sequel to: Men in Black, Men in Black II, Men in Black III
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rebecca Ferguson, Rafe Spall, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson
Seen on: 19.6.2019

When she was just a little child, Molly (Tessa Thompson) had an encounter with an alien and the Men in Black. She has been trying to find out more about the organization ever since. One night, she finally hits gold and manages to find a MiB investigation in real time, following it to the MiB headquarters where she is finally uncovered. She can even convince Agent O (Emma Thompson) to let her work there on a probationary basis. Molly, now Agent M, is sent to London where she starts to work with Agent H (Chris Hemsworth). The two soon realize that there is a threat to the MiB – and it may not be alien, but coming from the inside of the organization.

Men in Black: International is fun and nice enough to watch. It’s probably the best MiB since the first, though still a couple of leagues behind that one. I enjoyed it, but I’m not too excited about it.

The film poster showing Agent M (Tessa Thompson) and Agent H (Chris Hemsworth)  cradling huge weapons on their shoulders, Agent High T (Liam Neeson, smaller, holding a memory eraser, Agent O (Emma Thompson) looking sternly as well as a couple of aliens and a pug wearing a suit.
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Re-Watch: Rafiki (2018)

Rafiki (literally: friend)
Director: Wanuri Kahiu
Writer: Wanuri Kahiu
Based on: Monica Arac de Nyeko‘s short story Jambula Tree
Cast: Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva, Neville Misati, Nice Githinji, Muthoni Gathecha, Vitalis Waweru, Jimmy Gathu, Dennis Musyoka
Seen on: 16.6.2019
[Here’s my first review.]

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) spends most of her time hanging out with her friend Blacksta (Neville Misati) or working in her father’s (Jimmy Gathu) shop. Her father is currently running for a council seat, as is Ziki’s (Sheila Munyiva) father (Dennis Musyoka). But Kena finds Ziki very intriguing and the two women become close very quickly. As love grows between them, they have to face the fact that society around them doesn’t accept homosexuality.

When I watched Rafiki the first time, it was the day after an overnight flight, and I was too tired to really give the film my all, although I did like it. Re-watching it, I could really fall into the film and I loved it even more.

The film poster shwoing Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva.
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