See You Yesterday (2019)

See You Yesterday
Director: Stefon Bristol
Writer: Fredrica Bailey, Stefon Bristol
Cast: Eden Duncan-Smith, Dante Crichlow, Astro, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Johnathan Nieves, Michael J. Fox
Seen on: 9.5.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, police violence

Plot:
CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Danté Crichlow) are working hard for a science fair where they hope to present nothing less than time travel to secure a scholarship for the universities of their choice. But when yet another police shooting hits close to home, CJ is less interested in scholarship than in changing the past and preventing tragedy. But changes can have unforeseen outcomes and getting things right really isn’t easy.

See You Yesterday combines the fun antics of time travel movies (including a Michael J. Fox cameo) with the seriousness of racism, police violence and the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s a combination that could have gone very wrong – and doesn’t at all. The ending was a bit difficult for me, but I absolutely loved the rest.

The film poster showing CJ (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Sebastian (Danté Crichlow) with goggles and gadgets, running in front of a giant clock.
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The Half of It (2020)

The Half of It
Director: Alice Wu
Writer: Alice Wu
Cast: Leah Lewis, Alexxis Lemire, Daniel Diemer, Enrique Murciano, Becky Ann Baker, Catherine Curtin, Collin Chou, Wolfgang Novogratz
Seen on: 5.5.2020

Content Note: reference to/critical treatment of homomisia and racism

Plot:
Ellie (Leah Lewis) is an excellent student who has a profitable side business in writing papers for her classmates. When Paul (Daniel Diemer) approaches her to ask whether she would write a love letter to Aster (Alexxis Lemire) for him, Ellie declines at first. Not only because she finds it unethical per se, but also because she is in love with Aster herself. But she finally agrees anyway because she and her father (Collin Chou) really need the money. As Paul and Ellie work on the letter together, they develop a real friendship – and Ellie falls ever more for Aster.

The Half of It is a supercute film that sagely mentions at the beginning that it doesn’t tell a love story. Because all signs point to romance here and the film just doesn’t deliver that. That is definitely disappointing, but at least we have been warned. While I did hope for more romance, I enjoyed the film I got.

The film poster showing Paul (Daniel Diemer) and Ellie (Leah Lewis) both looking at Aster (Alexxis Lemire) who is out of focus.
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Straight A’s (2013)

Straight A’s
Director: James Cox
Writer: Dave Cole
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Anna Paquin, Luke Wilson, Riley Thomas Stewart, Ursula Parker, Amparo Garcia-Crow, Augustin Solis, Tess Harper, Powers Boothe, Christa Campbell
Seen on: 30.4.2020

Plot:
Scott (Ryan Phillippe) is the family screw-up and he hasn’t shown his face at home in a while. But after he has a vision of his dead mother (Tess Harper) telling him to make amends with his brother William (Luke Wilson), his sister-in-law and first love Katherine (Anna Paquin) and his father (Powers Boothe), Scott just shows up at Katherine’s home while William is on a business trip. As he waits for William to return, Scott causes an uproar for Katherine and her kids (Riley Thomas Stewart, Ursula Parker) who take a shine to their newly discovered uncle. Scott himself is uneasy with his own plan, drunk all the time and really not all that well.

Straight A’s is so firmly rooting for Scott without really acknowledging his many flaws or interested in him making up for past (and current) transgressions, that it is just annoying. I didn’t care for redeeming Scott, I wanted to strangle him instead. The film can’t work that way.

On a sidenote: in a film that is obviously trying to be smart and deep and that is so firmly rooted in its own privilege, that incorrect apostrophe in the title is annoying as fuck.

The film poster showing Katherine (Anna Paquin), Scott (Ryan Philippe) and William (Luke Wilson). An arrow points from Scott to Katherine with "He loves her", another arrow from Katherine to William with "She's married to his brother".

[SPOILERS]

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Re-Watch: Big Business (1988)

Big Business
Director: Jim Abrahams
Writer: Dori Pierson, Marc Reid Rubel
Cast: Bette Midler, Lily Tomlin, Fred Ward, Edward Herrmann, Michele Placido, Daniel Gerroll, Barry Primus, Michael Gross
Seen on: 24.4.2020

Plot:
One night in a small town hospital in Jupiter Hollow, two very different pairs of parents each have a set of twin girls. In the confusion, two babies get switched. 40 years later, Rose (Lily Tomlin) and Sadie Shelton (Bette Midler) have taken over the family company in New York that still owns a company in Jupiter Hollow. But they want to sell it. Rose (Lily Tomlin) and Sadie Ratcliff (Bette Midler) who grew up in a poor family in Jupiter Hollow and know that the entire town depends on the local company not being sold, decide to go to New York to confront the Sheltons and stop the sale. But given the circumstances around their birth, things are bound to get very confusing.

Big Business is one of my total-flashback-to-my-childhood movies. I think we had a VHS tape with Big Business and Ruthless People (for the Bette Midler double whammy) and it feels like we watched it once a week. We probably didn’t because TV time was very limited, but I’m sure I’ve seen the film a lot, although I haven’t seen it in 20 years, if not more. I definitely never saw it as an adult or in English. So, even though everything was very familiar about the film, it was also a very different experience. I might not love it as much anymore as I did as a child, but it is still very entertaining.

The film poster showing Rose (Lily Tomlin) and Sadie Shelton (Bette Midler) on one side and Rose (Lily Tomlin) and Sadie Ratcliff (Bette Midler) on the other side.
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Gerald’s Game (2017)

Gerald’s Game
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writer: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Based on: Stephen King‘s novel
Cast: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Chiara Aurelia, Carel Struycken, Henry Thomas
Seen on: 21.4.2020

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Jessie (Carla Gugino) and her husband Gerald have an exciting weekend planned. In their remote vacation home during the off-season, they want to take the weekend to focus on themselves and their relationship – by spicing up their sex life. Gerald brought handcuffs and is eager to get going. Jessie is willing to give it a try but as the tying up quickly turns into a rape fantasy for Gerald, she doesn’t want to go along anymore. As he tries to convince her, Gerald has a heart attack though and suddenly Jessie finds herself all alone, chained to a bed. Or maybe she isn’t quite as alone as she thought.

Gerald’s Game is a tense, very well-made film with a fantastic Gugino. If you want to be creeped out, I can definitely recommend it.

The film poster showing Jessie (Carla Gugino) with her hands chained to the bed, her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) lying on top of her.
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Duck Butter (2018)

Duck Butter
Director: Miguel Arteta
Writer: Miguel Arteta, Alia Shawkat
Cast: Alia Shawkat, Laia Costa, Mae Whitman, Hong Chau, Kate Berlant, Kumail Nanjiani, Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass, Lindsay Burdge
Seen on: 20.4.2020

Plot:
Naima (Alia Shawkat) and Sergio (Laia Costa) meet by chance at a night club and have a great evening/night together. As they talk, they come up with the idea to fast-forward through their relationship to see if it is meant to be by spending 24hours together without sleep – but with sex every hour. Naima hesitates at first and says she can’t because she has to work as an actress, but when she gets fired, she returns to Sergio and the two actually do give it a try.

Duck Butter is very much an American independent movie – how much that is or isn’t up you alley is probably a matter of taste. I did enjoy it for the most part, but the ending rubbed me the wrong way.

The film poster showing a drawing of almost just the eyes of Naima (Alia Shawkat) and Sergio (Laia Costa).

[SPOILERS]

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Lovelace (2013)

Lovelace
Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Writer: Andy Bellin
Based on: Linda Lovelace‘s autobiographies
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Juno Temple, Chris Noth, Bobby Cannavale, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, Chloë Sevigny, James Franco, Debi Mazar, Wes Bentley, Eric Roberts,
Seen on: 20.4.2020

Content Note: abuse, domestic violence, rape

Plot:
Linda (Amanda Seyfried) lives with her parents (Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick) who are very strict. But that doesn’t mean that she can’t go partying with her friend Patsy (Juno Temple). At one of those parties, Linda meets the charming Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard). When her parents try to curb the relationship, Linda just moves in with Chuck. They get married, they appear happy, but Chuck is abusive. As he struggles with money, he pushes Linda to make porn. Her film, Deep Throat, is a huge success and bit by bit, Linda manages to get away from Chuck.

Lovelace tells a heavy story, and they manage not to fall (too much) into anti-porn rhetoric, despite the topic, but at its core it’s a film that never manages to see Linda as anything else but a victim.

The film poster showing Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) apparently naked, looking at the camera, her armes folded in front of her chest.
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Love Wedding Repeat (2020)

Love Wedding Repeat
Director: Dean Craig
Writer: Dean Craig
Remake of: Plan de table
Cast: Sam Claflin, Olivia Munn, Freida Pinto, Eleanor Tomlinson, Joel Fry, Jack Farthing, Tim Key, Allan Mustafa, Aisling Bea, Paolo Mazzarelli
Seen on: 18.4.2020

Plot:
Jack (Sam Claflin) and Dina (Olivia Munn) had a moment years ago, but nothing more ever came of it. Now Jack is back in Italy for his sister Hayley’s (Eleanor Tomlinson) wedding and not only is Dina there, too, but so is Jack’s still angry ex Amanda (Freida Pinto) with her new boyfriend Chaz (Allan Mustafa) and Marc (Jack Farthing) has crashed the wedding to tell Hayley that they should be together. It’s up to Jack to make sure that things don’t go wrong. But sometimes small things like seating arrangements can make all the difference – and so there are a couple of versions to the story.

Love Wedding Repeat is a complete disappointment, unfortunately. There’s simultaneously too much going on and too little. Neither the comedy works, nor the multiple versions.

The film poster showing the main characters standing in a group. The image is cut off at their calves, with the feet positioned on top as if the image was revolving.
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The Breaker Upperers (2018)

The Breaker Upperers
Director: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek
Writer: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek
Cast: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek, James Rolleston, Celia Pacquola, Ana Scotney, Rima Te Wiata, Carl Bland, Brett O’Gorman, Cohen Holloway, Jemaine Clement
Seen on: 15.4.2020

Plot:
Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie van Beek) are best friends who have a booming business together where they handle the break-ups for people who can’t go through with the break-up themselves, for whatever reason. And they make sure that the break-ups stick – whether that means pretending to cheat with their clients, or pretending that they are dead or missing doesn’t really matter to them. But when Mel starts to second-guess the ethics of their job, not only does their business suffer, but also their friendship.

The Breaker Upperers is a fun film that continuously approaches the line into cringe territory but never really crosses it (for me at least). Still, there is a relentlessness to their humor that just isn’t necessarily my cup of tea. I did enjoy the film, but I didn’t love it.

The film poster showing Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie van Beek) sittingat a desk with champagne and cash. Behind them Jordan (James Rolleston) and Sepa (Ana Scotney) look in through a window.
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Freaky Friday (2003)

Freaky Friday
Director: Mark Waters
Writer: Heather Hach, Leslie Dixon
Based on: Mary Rodgers‘s book
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Mark Harmon, Harold Gould, Chad Michael Murray, Stephen Tobolowsky, Christina Vidal, Ryan Malgarini, Haley Hudson, Rosalind Chao, Lucille Soong, Willie Garson, Julie Gonzalo
Seen on: 13.4.2020
[Here’s my review of the 1976 version.]

Content Note: racism

Plot:
Anna (Lindsay Lohan) and her mother Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis) don’t get along very well. While Tess is preparing for her wedding to Ryan (Mark Harmon), juggling a demanding career and just published a book, Anna is less goal-oriented. In fact, her interests only lie in her band – together with her friends Peg (Haley Hudson) and Maddie (Christina Vidal) – and Jake (Chad Michael Murray), the boy she’s been crushing on from afar. When things come to a head at a family dinner in a Chinese restaurant, the restaurant owner (Lucille Soong) decides to take matters into her own hands and hands Anna and Tess two fortune cookies that the crack open. When they wake up the next morning, they have swapped bodies – and both have to learn that things aren’t easy for either of them.

Before I watched the film, I could have sworn that I had seen it, even if that was many years ago. But now that I did watch it, I’m pretty sure that all I saw of it were gifsets. In any case, Freaky Friday is fun enough, despite the racist twist on the “curse”, and there are definitely some interesting points to make when you compare it to the version that came almost 30 years before.

The film poster showing Anna (Lindsay Lohan) dressed all business-like and Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis) in a rock get-up, both with shocked facial expressions.
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