New Spring (Robert Jordan)

New Spring is a prequel novel to The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.
Finished on: 28.12.2021

Moiraine Damodred and her best friend Siuan Sanche are both studying to become Aes Sedai, though they still have a way to go. By chance they witness a prophecy that speaks of the Dragon Reborn that piques their curiosity to say the least. But they are sworn to secrecy. That doesn’t mean, though, that they can’t try to do some investigating of their own. Meanwhile Lan Mandragoran is a commander in the Aiel War, but unforseeable consequences take him into the middle of political intrigue where he really doesn’t want to be.

I got my hands on a collection of all The Wheel of Time books, and that collection starts with this novel. Which is fair enough because it is set before the main story, but it still probably wasn’t the best choice to start the series with it.

The book cover showing four riders, one of them a female elf, on horseback in front of a castle.
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Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Trick ‘r Treat
Director: Michael Dougherty
Writer: Michael Dougherty
Cast: Dylan Baker, Rochelle Aytes, Quinn Lord, Lauren Lee Smith, Moneca Delain, Tahmoh Penikett, Brett Kelly, Britt McKillip, Samm Todd, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Leslie Bibb
Seen on: 26.12.2021

Content Note: fatmisia, (critical treatment of) ableism

Halloween is a night where the usual rules don’t apply. When Emma (Leslie Bibb) blows out the jack-o’-lantern before midnight, her husband Henry (Tahmoh Penikett) is worried about the consequences. High school director Steven (Dylan Baker) also thinks its important to stick to Halloween rules, and he will do his share to see them obeyed. Rhonda (Samm Todd) loves traditional Halloween costumes, but that’s not the only reason why she doesn’t fit in with other kids her age who prefer more modern costumes. Those kids have come up with a plan to use Rhonda’s love for Halloween. Laurie (Anna Paquin) doesn’t quite fit in with her sister Danielle (Lauren Lee Smith) and friends either. Where the other women are eager to flirt and fuck, Laurie is still a virgin. But maybe that will change tonight. Mr Kreeg (Brian Cox) would rather forget that its Halloween altogether, but that won’t happen as Halloween keeps coming to him.

Trick ‘r Treat is a fun little Halloween flick. Not all of its episodes worked equally well for me, but it’s a neat celebration of Halloween that will especially appeal to people who like Halloween a lot in general. For me (as a European, maybe), Halloween is not that important, so the film is maybe not as exciting for me, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

The film poster showing a child-sized figure with an orange onesie wearing a burlap sack over its head. Or maybe the sack is its head.
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I basilischi [The Basilisks] (1963)

I basilischi
Director: Lina Wertmüller
Writer: Lina Wertmüller
Cast: Antonio Petruzzi, Stefano Satta Flores, Sergio Ferranino, Luigi Barbieri, Flora Carabella, Mimma Quirico
Seen on: 26.12.2021

Antonio (Antonio Petruzzi), Francesco (Stefano Satta Flores) and Sergio (Sergio Ferranino) have grown up together and are now in an age where decisions have to be made about what their lives should look like. In their own small town, options are limited and the three spend most of their time just hanging around and trying to flirt. When Antonio gets a chance to go to Rome and study at university there, things might change for him. Might.

The Basilisks doesn’t so much tell a story as capture a mood, and in a very impressive way. Much will depend on whether you like to be exposed to that mood, but the effective filmmaking here can’t be denied.

The film poster showing a couple of scenes from the film, as well as a close-up of Francesco (Stefano Satta Flores).
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The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

The Matrix Resurrections
Director: Lana Wachowski
Writer: Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell, Aleksandar Hemon
Sequel to: The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, Jada Pinkett Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Christina Ricci, Lambert Wilson, Andrew Lewis Caldwell, Toby Onwumere, Max Riemelt, Chad Stahelski
Seen on: 22.12.2021

Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a video game designer. He became famous with a game that has, by now, achieved cult status, and there is huge pressure for him to recreate this success with a new entry into the franchise. He doesn’t want to do that, though, and escapes as much as he can into a coffee shop where he is too shy to talk to frequent patron Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss). But that’s not the only thing Thomas is struggling with. He has frequent dreams of a different life, one where he is Neo. And maybe that life is more real than he thought.

We were a group of three people watching The Matrix Resurrections in the cinema. One was very excited about this film, one was somewhere in the middle, and one was rather bored with it. Unfortunately, that third person was me. But obviously, impressions of it vary greatly. I just wish I could have gotten more out of it.

The film poster sowing the central characters standing in a V formation, Neo (Keanu Reeves) front and center. All are wearing sunglasses and look very cool.
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The Guilty (2021)

The Guilty
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: Nic Pizzolatto
Remake of: Den skyldige
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riley Keough, Peter Sarsgaard, Christina Vidal, Eli Goree, Ethan Hawke
Seen on: 21.12.2021

Joe Baylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a police officer. Due to some disciplinary issues, he has to man the 911 dispatch desk for a while. But he has finally come to his last shift before he can return to his actual job. Or at least that’s what he hopes – the decision should be coming in, and he hopes to be going out. When he receives a call from a kidnapped woman (Riley Keough) he quickly becomes very involved in the case, though.

The Guilty is practically a locked room drama with almost only one visible actor, the rest coming in over the phone. It demands a lot of Gyllenhaal, but he is absolutely up for the task. The film has some interesting things to say about police work and masculinity, but is still not radical enough for my taste.

The film poster showing Joe Baylor's (Jake Gyllenhaal) face made from letters, with the words "Listen" and "Carefully" emphasized.
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Mixtape (2021)

Director: Valerie Weiss
Writer: Stacey Menear
Cast: Gemma Brooke Allen, Julie Bowen, Audrey Hsieh, Olga Petsa, Nick Thune, Jackson Rathbone
Seen on: 20.12.2021

Beverly (Gemma Brooke Allen) lives with her grandmother Gail (Julie Bowen), as her parents died when she – and they – were very young. Gail rarely talks about them and Beverly never really knew them, so when she finds some of their stuff, it’s like a gift. She discovers a mixtape with songs that were meaningful to her parents among the stuff, but unfortunately, the tape gets eaten. So she sets out to find the songs with the help of her new-found friends Ellen (Audrey Hsieh) and Nicky (Olga Petsa), as well as grumpy record store owner Anti (Nick Thune).

Mixtape is a cute film that doesn’t hide big surprises, but executes its story well enough – and thankfully with a good soundtrack.

The film poster showing Beverly (Gemma Brooke Allen) lying in the grass, chewing gum and listening to a walkman. Around her a snapshots of film scenes.
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Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

Spider-Man: No Way Home
Director: Jon Watts
Writer: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Based on: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko‘s comic
Sequel to: Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far from Home
Cast: Tom HollandZendayaJacob Batalon, Marisa TomeiJon Favreau, Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict WongTony Revolori, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Andrew Garfield, Tobey MaguireAngourie Rice, Martin Starr, Hannibal Buress, J.B. Smoove, J.K. Simmons, Rhys Ifans, Charlie Cox, Thomas Haden Church
Part of: Marvel movies
Seen on: 20.12.2021

Now that the world knows that Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is Spider-Man, Peter’s life is thoroughly screwed up. Although things could be so very good now that both his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and his finally-girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) know the truth. Not to mention Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). But things just can’t work that way anymore, and so Peter asks Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for a spell to make the world forget about Spider-Man’s identity. Things don’t work out the way he’d hoped, though, and the mess becomes even bigger than before.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is entertaining as hell, a cross-over of epic proportions and proof of that Spider-Man is never allowed to be happy ever. In short: it gives you one hell of a ride.

The film poster showing Spider-Man (Tom Holland) on a pile of rubble, surrounded by metal tentacles and the Green Goblin in the distance behind him.

[Slight SPOILERS follow]

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Große Freiheit [Great Freedom] (2021)

Große Freiheit
Director: Sebastian Meise
Writer: Sebastian Meise, Thomas Reider
Cast: Franz Rogowski, Georg Friedrich, Anton von Lucke, Thomas Prenn
Seen on: 19.12.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

It’s the 60s and Hans (Franz Rogowski) is once more arrested and imprisoned for “sexual deviancy”, for having sex with other men. It’s not the first time, and back in prison, he quickly settles into the routine when he sees two familiar faces. One is Leo (Anton von Lucke), one of the men Hans had sex with, a young teacher utterly lost in prison life. The other is Viktor (Georg Friedrich) with whom Hans shares a long history, and a connection that runs deep – and becomes deeper still.

Große Freiheit is a sensitive film with great performances about a horrific part of (German) legal history. And it’s also a beautiful love story.

The film poster showing Hans (Franz Rogowski) desperately holding on to Viktor (Georg Friedrich).
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Single All the Way (2021)

Single All the Way
Director: Michael Mayer
Writer: Chad Hodge
Cast: Michael Urie, Philemon Chambers, Luke Macfarlane, Barry Bostwick, Jennifer Robertson, Madison Brydges, Alexandra Beaton, Jennifer Coolidge, Kathy Najimy
Seen on: 15.12.2021

Peter (Michael Urie) and Nick (Philemon Chambers) have been best friends forever. So when things don’t work out with Peter’s boyfriend just before Christmas, Peter asks Nick to pretend to be his date for the holidays with his family. Nick happily visits Peter’s family, but declines the subterfuge. So instead Peter gets set up on a date with his mother’s (Kathy Najimy) fitness instructor James (Luke Macfarlane). But other members of Peter’s family are certain that he should be with Nick for real. And maybe Nick thinks so, too.

Single All the Way is the cute, fun Christmas romance you’re looking for. It gets the tone just right to be utterly sweet without being saccharine, and has charm coming out of its ears.

The film poster showing Lisa (Jennifer Robertson), Aunt Sandy (Jennifer Coolidge), Nick (Philemon Chambers), Peter (Michael Urie) and Carole (Kathy Najimy) in separate images, a bow wrapped around them.
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Weapons of Math Destruction (Cathy O’Neil)

Weapons of Math Destruction is a non-fiction book by Cathy O’Neil.
Finished on: 15.12.2021

Algorithms are practically everywhere now, running evaluation programs, deciding about search results or job applications. But they are far from the objective tool people would like it to be, and often they are harmful instead of helpful. O’Neil examines algorithms in this book and how they go from simple mathematics to Weapons of Math Destruction.

Weapons of Math Destruction is a very readable and very comprehensive look at the effect of algorithms, tracing both the areas in which they are used in a general way, and personalizing the effects with stories of particular people. It’s definitely a good primer on the subject.

The book cover in yellow, showing a flow diagram in the shape of a skull and bones.
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