Hustlers (2019)

Hustlers
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Writer: Lorene Scafaria
Based on: Jessica Pressler‘s article The Hustlers at Scores
Cast: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Mette Towley, Trace Lysette, Keke Palmer, Mercedes Ruehl, Lili Reinhart, G-Eazy, Cardi B, Lizzo, Usher Raymond
Seen on: 18.12.2019

Plot:
Destiny (Constance Wu) just about scrapes by as a stripper until she meets Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) who takes her under her wings. She not only teaches her to dance, but also shows her the ropes on how to get the most from their customers. They make a formidable team until the recession hits and they have to go their separate ways. When they run into each other a few years later, Ramona offers Destiny the chance to play a new game – and Destiny gladly accepts, even if not everything is exactly legal.

Hustlers tells a crime story that isn’t as much interested in the crime and much more interested in the women and their friendships. Since that aligns perfectly with my interests, I was very happy about that choice – and the film in general.

The film poster showing Destiny (Constance Wu), Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), Diamond (Cardi B), Liz (Lizzo), Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) and Mercedes (Keke Palmer) in close-ups.
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Frozen II (2019)

Frozen II
Director: Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Writer: Jennifer Lee
Based on (or rather inspired by): Hans Christian Andersen‘s fairy tale The Snow Queen
Sequel to: Frozen
Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown, Evan Rachel Wood, Alfred Molina, Martha Plimpton, Jason Ritter, Rachel Matthews, Jeremy Sisto, Alan Tudyk, Ciarán Hinds
Seen on: 18.12.2019

Content Note: (critical treatment of) colonialism, racism

Plot:
Anna (Kirsten Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) lifted the curse off Arendelle and Elsa has risen to the throne, making an excellent queen. But when things finally seem to be okay, a voice starts calling Elsa – a voice only she can hear. It beckons her, but it’s only after strange – and threatening – things start happening in Arendelle that Elsa resolves to go. She knows she has to find a forest that used to be the kingdom of Northuldra and the place where her own grandfather was killed by the natives. And Anna knows that she will not let her sister go on any mission alone anymore. So they start making their way north together with Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Sven, and Olaf (Josh Gad) to rediscover history.

Frozen II feels very in tune with the first Frozen film, though personally I found the music not quite up to snuff. No matter, though, because the themes the film tackles more than make up for it: surprisingly heavy for a children’s film, they still handle them mostly well.

The film poster showing the main characters and smaller Elsa doing some ice magic.

[SPOILERS]

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Portrait de la jeune fille en feu [Portrait of a Lady on Fire] (2019)

Portrait de la jeune fille en feu
Director: Céline Sciamma
Writer: Céline Sciamma
Cast: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino
Seen on: 16.12.2019

Plot:
Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is a painter. She gets hired to paint the portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel). It’s supposed to be her wedding portrait and Héloïse has so far refused to be painted by all of the (male) painters who came before. So Marianne is under strict orders to not tell Héloïse of her job, but just spend time with her and then paint her from memory. When Marianne arrives, she finds Héloïse a fasinating portrait subject, but even more than that, a fascinating woman.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a beautiful, unusual film telling an epic love story in stunning images. It did take me two attempts to get into it, but once I did, I absolutely loved it.

The film poster showing Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) standing in the dark, the bottom of her long dress on fire.
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Black Christmas (2019)

Black Christmas
Director: Sophia Takal
Writer: Sophia Takal, April Wolfe
Remake of: Black Christmas (1974)
Cast: Imogen Poots, Aleyse Shannon, Lily Donoghue, Brittany O’Grady, Caleb Eberhardt, Cary Elwes, Madeleine Adams
Seen on: 13.12.2019

Content Note: rape, sexualized assault

Plot:
Christmas break is approaching and Hawthorne college has mostly emptied of students. Riley (Imogen Poots), Kris (Aleyse Shannon), Marty (Lily Donoghue), Jesse (Brittany O’Grady), and Helena (Madeleine Adams) are sorority sisters who have remained on campus for now. They are preparing to go to a fraternity talent show, despite the fact that Riley was raped by one of them and that Kris has run afowl the boys’ club at the university with her feminist activism. But sexism and rape culture are not the only threat to women at Hawthorne: there is also a killer going after the girls.

Black Christmas is an openly feminist retelling of a beloved slasher classic, reinterpreting a genre that is usually more interested in killing the women than in exploring them as characters. I really enjoyed it.

The film poster in black and white  showing Kris (Aleyse Shannon), Riley (Imogen Poots), Marty (Lili Donogue) and Jesse (Brittany O'Grady) sitting on a park bench, looking dishevelled and ready to fight.
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Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)

Jumanji: The Next Level
Director: Jake Kasdan
Writer: Jake Kasdan, Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg
Sequel to: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Awkwafina, Nick Jonas, Alex Wolff, Ser’Darius Blain, Madison Iseman, Morgan Turner, Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, Rhys Darby, Colin Hanks, Rory McCann
Seen on: 13.12.2019

Plot:
It’s been a year since Spencer (Alex Wolff), Martha (Morgan Turner), Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) and Bethany (Madison Iseman) returned from Jumanji. They finished high school and each set out on their own life. But now the holidays are coming up and they can’t wait to meet again. Only Spencer isn’t actually happy with his life and when his grandfather Eddie (Danny DeVito) tells him that now is the best time of his life, Spencer decides that he’d rather be Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson) again. When his friends, his grandfather and his grandfather’s friend Milo (Danny Glover) all come looking for him, they all end up in the game – and things are different than before. Very different.

I was very pleasantly surprised by Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, so I was a little worried that Jumanji: The Next Level would turn out to be the film I feared JWttJ would be. But I’m happy to report that it was a whole lot of fun again.

The film poster showing Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), Oberon (Jack Black), Mouse (Kevin Hart) and Ruby (Karen Gillan) standing with a black  horse at their backs
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The Good Liar (2019)

The Good Liar
Director: Bill Condon
Writer: Jeffrey Hatcher
Based on: Nicholas Searle’s novel
Cast: Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Russell Tovey, Jim Carter, Mark Lewis Jones, Laurie Davidson, Phil Dunster, Lucian Msamati
Seen on: 13.12.2019

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Betty (Helen Mirren) meets Roy (Ian McKellen) online and soon a romantic relationship starts between the two of them. Betty’s grandson Stephen (Russell Tovey) is a little suspicious of Roy, and rightly so: Roy is a con artist out to relieve Betty of her money. But maybe this time, he actually starts to have feeling for Betty. And maybe Betty isn’t quite as naive as she seems at first.

You’d think that Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen starring in a film together is all you need to make great entertainment, but The Good Liar proves that a bad story can ruin even that pairing.

The film poster showing Betty (Helen Mirren) and Roy (Ian McKellen). She is wearing a white coat in front of a white background, he is wearing a black suite in front of a black background.

[SPOILERS]

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Grim Tides (T.A. Pratt)

Grim Tides is the sixth of the Marla Mason novels by T.A. Pratt.
Finished on: 6.12.2019
[Here are my reviews of the other Marla Mason novels.]

Plot:
Marla Mason had to leave Felport behind, and now she is in exile – on Maui. With Rondeau. Who is super rich, albeit struggling with his new body. It could be worse. If only Marla could find some way to occupy herself. Her business as an occult detective doesn’t really do the trick – although she’s been asked to solve a murder. That Marla is at such a low point is the perfect opportunity for some old enemies, and maybe a few new ones, to try to get their revenge. But even at her low point, Marla is a formidable opponent with interesting friends, so she will not go down without a fight.

Grim Tides is a good, fun read and continues Marla’s story in interesting directions. I enjoyed it a lot.

The book cover showing a woman standing between two tiki statues, glowing magical symbols emanating from her hand.
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Rip Tide (2017)

Rip Tide
Director: Rhiannon Bannenberg
Writer: Georgia Harrison
Cast: Debby Ryan, Genevieve Hegney, Andrew Creer, Naomi Sequeira, Valerie Bader, Aaron Jeffery, Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, Danielle Carter
Seen on: 5.12.2019

Plot:
Cora (Debby Ryan) is a successful model, but always in her mother Sofia’s (Danielle Carter) shadow as Sofia herself runs a modeling agency. When an embarassing video surfaces of Cora, she decides to leave New York and visit her aunt Margot (Genevieve Hegney) in Australia until things die down. Margot used to be a pro surfer, but now she runs a surf shop and school – and she’s struggling. With Cora’s arrival, things get shaken up – both for Margot and for Cora.

Rip Tide is nothing special. It tells a familiar tale and it doesn’t tell it particularly well. But there’s still some entertainment to be had and I’m pretty sure that pre-teens will gobble it up.

The film poster showing Cora (Debby Ryan) in fashionable clothes with a surfboard in her hand.
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Little Joe (2019)

Little Joe
Director: Jessica Hausner
Writer: Géraldine Bajard, Jessica Hausner
Cast: Emily Beecham, Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox, Kit Connor, Lindsay Duncan
Seen on: 5.12.2020

Plot:
Alice (Emily Beecham) is a botanist working on creating the perfect plant – a plant especially designed to make everyone happy who smells it. It appears that her attempts have been met with success and Alice decides to take one of the plants home against company policy. She presents it to her son Joe (Kit Connor) as a gift and calls it Little Joe. But the longer Alice deals with the plant and sees the effect it has on Joe, the more worried she becomes.

Little Joe is stylistically interesting, but everything else is a drag that quickly turns boring. I really wanted to like the film much more than I did.

The filmposter showing Alice (Emily Beecham) and Chris (Ben Whishaw) stadning in a laboratory full of red flowers.
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The Lighthouse (2019)

The Lighthouse
Director: Robert Eggers
Writer: Robert Eggers, Max Eggers
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Willem Dafoe, Valeriia Karaman, Logan Hawkes
Seen on: 3.12.2019

Plot:
Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) comes to a small island off New England to work as a lighthouse keeper together with Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). Wake has been on the island for a long time, while Winslow is a newbie at lighthouse keeping. Wake is a strange fellow, and obsessed with the light of the lighthouse where he barely lets Winslow approach. Winslow starts having strange dreams about mermaids and feels under observation by a seagull that behaves suspiciously. And things become ever stranger.

The Lighthouse came with many accolades and sind I also liked Eggers’ first feature The VVitch, I went with pretty high expectations into the film. But unfortunately, the film couldn’t live up to those expectations. I was pretty bored with it.

The film poster in black and white showing half of Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and half of Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson). Between them we can see a lighthouse circled by seagulls.
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