The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag (1992)

The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag
Director: Allan Moyle
Writer: Grace Cary Bickley
Cast: Penelope Ann Miller, Eric Thal, Alfre Woodard, Julianne Moore, Andy Romano, Ray McKinnon, William Forsythe, Xander Berkeley, Meat Loaf, Catherine Keener
Seen on: 2.4.2018

Plot:
Betty Lou (Penelope Ann Miller) is a librarian, and married to Alex (Eric Thal), a police officer. But Alex and pretty much everyone else is ignoring her. And Betty Lou really doesn’t know how to make somebody pay attention. Not even when she finds a murder weapon is she able to make anybody listen to her. But she has had it and when she accidentally fires the gun herself and is arrested, she confesses to the murder herself. And suddenly all eyes are on her.

The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag is a very, very stupid film that makes absolutely no sense and isn’t funny despite how much it tries to be. It’s a film best forgotten (and it probably would have been already if it wasn’t for Julianne Moore’s small supporting role. At least that’s the reason I know about the film in the first place).

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Tomb Raider (2018)

Tomb Raider
Director: Roar Uthaug
Writer: Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Alastair Siddons
Based on: the video game series
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi, Nick Frost
Seen on: 29.3.2018
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Plot:
By birth, Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is very rich, but since her adventurer father (Dominic West) disappeared, Lara doesn’t want anything to do with the estate. Instead she makes her money as a bike courier, a job that plays into her adrenaline seeking tendencies. But then Lara gets an elaborate puzzle box that sets her on the path of her father’s last adventure. Even though she goes against his wishes with her decision, she decides to retrace his last known steps and figure out what happened.

My first thought after leaving the cinema, was “well, Tomb Raider is a film I have seen now” and that still pretty much captures the level of excitement and fun the film achieved. But at least it never got really boring.

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Red Sparrow (2018)

Red Sparrow
Director: Francis Lawrence
Writer: Justin Haythe
Based on: Jason Matthewsnovel
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciarán Hinds, Joely Richardson, Bill Camp, Jeremy Irons, Sergei Polunin
Seen on: 28.3.2018
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Plot:
Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) is a promising ballet dancer. Or rather, she used to be until an injury cost her her career. Instead she is recruited by her uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts) for the Sparrow School, a school designed to make spies. Training is hard, but Dominika makes it through. The target of her first mission is CIA agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) who appears to have a Russian informant – and Dominika is supposed to find out who the informant is. But she and Nate gravitate towards each other – and that may threaten both of their missions.

I didn’t expect much of Red Sparrow, I have to say, but I filed it under “the things I do for Matthias Schoenaerts” and watched it anyway. I shouldn’t have – and neither should you.

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Winchester (2018)

Winchester
Director: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Writer: Tom Vaughan, Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Cast: Jason Clarke, Helen Mirren, Sarah Snook, Finn Scicluna-O’Prey, Emm Wiseman, Angus Sampson
Seen on: 21.3.2018
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Plot:
Eric Price (Jason Clarke) is a psychiatrist whose addiction to laudanum is starting to compromise his career. When the heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) asks him to come to her house and prove that she is not insane – despite appearances – he accepts, trying to escape his own life and past. But the Winchester estate, constantly under construction, is not only a weird place, something more is going on there. Something that probably won’t end well.

Winchester is a middling film that builds too much on jump scares and too little on characters. It mostly lives of the house itself and while it is a cool house, it’s not enough for the film they made of it.

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Molly’s Game (2017)

Molly’s Game
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Based on: Molly Bloom‘s autobiographical book
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, J.C. MacKenzie, Brian d’Arcy James, Bill Camp, Graham Greene, Justin Kirk
Seen on: 21.3.2018
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Plot:
Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) used to be an Olympic skier but an injury put an end to her career. Looking for a new way to make a living, she moves to Los Angeles and stumbles into the world of gambling. Sharp and business savy as she is, she quickly moves up and becomes a successful host of high stakes poker games – which in turn puts her into the sight of the FBI.

Molly’s Game is the rare case of a film that reaches its climax with the very first scene. But that’s not the only reason it is ultimately disappointing, despite the excellent cast.

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Herr Tartüff [Tartuffe] (1925) + Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich / Frank Strobel

Herr Tartüff
Director: F.W. Murnau
Writer: Carl Mayer
Based on: Molière‘s play
Cast: Emil Jannings, Hermann Picha, Rosa Valetti, André Mattoni, Werner Krauss, Lil Dagover, Lucie Höflich, Camilla Horn
Part of: Film and Music Cycle in the Konzerthaus
With music by Giuseppe Becce, played be the Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich, conducted by Frank Strobel
Seen on: 20.3.2018
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Plot:
A young man (André Mattoni) suspects that his grandfather’s (Hermann Picha) housekeeper (Rosa Valetti) is trying to kill him to get to his money. So the young man tries to warn his by then isolated grandfather of her machinations by showing him a film. In that film, Tartüff (Emil Jannings) pretends to be a devout priest. He is staying with Herr Orgon (Werner Krauss) and his wife Elmire (Lil Dagover). Elmire is suspicious of Tartüff and his intentions, but Orgon doesn’t want to hear it…

Herr Tartüff is an enjoyable film and Becce’s music is really quite something. I wouldn’t have needed the entire thing to be longer than it was, but I had a good time throughout.

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Sunset (2018)

Sunset
Director: Jamison M. LoCascio
Writer: Adam Ambrosio, Jamison M. LoCascio
Cast: Liam MitchellBarbara Bleier, Austin Pendleton, Suzette Gunn, Juri Henley-Cohn, David Johnson
Seen on: 2.6.2018
[Screener Review.]

Plot:
Things look normal: Henry (Liam Mitchell) and Patricia (Barbara Bleier) are celebrating Patricia’s birthday with their friends – Patricia’s ex Julian (Austin Pendleton), Chris (David Johnson) and Ayden (Juri Henley-Cohn) who both have found surrogate parents in Henry and Patricia, and Ayden’s partner Breyanna (Suzette Gunn). As their talking turns to politics, it becomes clear, though, that tensions are high and ouright nuclear war seems just around the corner.

Usually nuclear war is used in films to conjure up a post-apocalyptic scenario, or it is used as a threat that the (action) heroes of the story have something to prevent. In Sunset’s case, it’s the backdrop for a thorough and thoughtful character study that stumbles sometimes, but remains engaging throughout.

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Superheldinnen (Barbi Marković)

Superheldinnen [translates as Superheroines] is a novel by Barbi Marković:
Finished on: 20.3.2018
[Here’s my review of the stage adaptation.]

Plot:
Every Saturday, three women come together in a Viennese café to pool their powers and send good vibes to the people who deserve and need them. They have strict rules for that which means that they’re able to keep working together, even though they couldn’t be any more different. In fact, the only things they seem to have in common are that none of them were born in Austria, and that they all have powers. But on this particular Saturday, all three of them have some kind of deviation from their usual procedure in mind.

Superheldinnen is an ambitious novel that captured my attention. Albeit it not succesful in everything that it attempts, it is an enjoyable read that has interesting things to say.

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29 to Life (2018)

29 to Life
Director: Alex Magaña
Writer: Alex Magaña
Cast: Murphy Patrick Martin, Diana Cristina (aka Diana Solis), Hayley Ambriz, Kaden Cole, Sherry Driggs, Rocky Hart
Seen on: 29.5.2018
[Screener Review.]

Plot:
Barnaby (Murphy Patrick Martin) is 29, but so far he successfully avoided growing up. But it’s time to face life when his girlfriend Elaina (Hayley Ambriz) breaks up with him and his parents (Sherry Driggs, Rocky Hart) kick him out of their house the very same day to try and force him to get a job. Barnaby finds himself living in his car and still trying to avoid any kind of responsibility. When hunger motivates him to go to his high school reunion (in the hope of finding a buffet there), he runs into Madison (Diana Cristina) and the two re-connect. And maybe Madison can give Barnaby the final push he needs.

29 to Life is very obviously a film by a young man made without a budget who hasn’t made a feature before. How forgiving you are about the drawbacks that come with that will vary. Personally, I struggled a little with Barnaby and the male perspective that permeates the script. That being said, it does have its sweet touches.

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Ghostland (2018)

Ghostland (aka Incident in a Ghostland)
Director: Pascal Laugier
Writer: Pascal Laugier
Cast: Crystal Reed, Mylène Farmer, Anastasia Phillips, Emilia Jones, Taylor Hickson, Kevin Power, Rob Archer
Seen on: 18.3.2018
Part of: /slash Filmfestival special screening
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Plot:
Pauline (Mylène Farmer) inherita a house from her aunt. She moves there with her two daughters, Beth (Emilia Jones) and Vera (Taylor Hickson). But they have barely arrived when they are attacked in the house by two strangers. Pauline barely manages to save them all, but the trauma of the attack sits deep. Years later, Beth (Crystal Reed) has become a writer who just published a book about the experience, when she gets a call from her mother that she has to return home to help with her sister (Anastasia Phillips) who never got over the night. So Beth leaves her husband and kid behind and comes home – where strange things start happening again.

Ghostland is a relentless film and that lack of a break is its biggest strength, but I found it absolutely problematic and couldn’t really get into it.

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