Rubikon (2022)

Rubikon
Director: Magdalena Lauritsch
Writer: Magdalena Lauritsch, Jessica Lind, Elisabeth Schmied
Cast: Julia Franz Richter, George Blagden, Mark Ivanir
Seen on: 16.9.2022

Plot:
Hannah (Julia Franz Richter) and Gavin (Georve Blagden) are sent to the Rubikon, a space station floating above earth and home of the algae experiments of Dimitri Krylow (Mark Ivanir) – humanity’s hope to regain control of the air and the climate down on Earth. Hannah and Gavin are replacing some other crew members, but there is more to their reasons for coming to Rubikon. Shortly after they arrive though, something happens on Earth. Communication is lost and a fog covers more and more of the planet.

I was pretty excited for Rubikon: Austrian Science Fiction, made by a woman no less, and judging from the trailer it looked really good. And all of these things are definitely true, but I found the script a little underwhelming, leaving me not quite as excited about the film going out as I was going in.

The film poster showing Hannah (Julia Franz Richter) wearing a space suit. The Earth is reflected in her visor, with a red fog covering a lot of it.
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The Princess (2022)

The Princess
Director: Le-Van Kiet
Writer: Ben Lustig, Jake Thornton
Cast: Joey King, Dominic Cooper, Olga Kurylenko, Veronica Ngo, Katelyn Rose Downey, Alex Reid, Ed Stoppard, Kristofer Kamiyasu
Seen on: 14.9.2022

Plot:
The Princess (Joey King) wakes up in a room at the top of the castle tower. She is wearing a wedding dress and chains. Slowly she realises that Julius (Dominic Cooper), king of the neighboring country, is in the middle of a coup and her family is in grave danger. But The Princess is not as easy a victim as Julius has probably imagined. She takes up her sword and will fight her way to her family and save her kingdom. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

The Princess is a fun action film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It does think it is more feminist than it is, but that’s pretty much its biggest flaw. Other than that it is done well enough to give us an entertaining 90 minutes.

The film poster showing the Princess (Joey King) crouched with a sword in hand.
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Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)

Three Thousand Years of Longing
Director: George Miller
Writer: George Miller, Augusta Gore
Based on: A. S. Byatt‘s short story The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba
Seen on: 13.9.2022

Content Note: orientalism, fatmisia, ableism

Plot:
Alithea (Tilda Swinton) is a narratologist, studying the meaning and function of stories. She travels to Istanbul for a convention where she finds an old bottle at the market. She buys it as a souvenir. When she tries to clean it, she can’t believe it when an actual Djinn (Idris Elba) comes out of the bottle. He needs her to make three wishes. She knows how the stories about wishing end up, that they’re all cautionary tales. So the Djinn tries to convince her by sharing his life story.

Three Thousand Years of Longing is a beautiful, romantic fairy tale that I found honestly engaging and incredibly lovely despite its orientalism and a sequence of fetishizing fatness.

The film poster showing the Djinn (Idris Elba) standing behind Alithea (Tilda swinton), surrounded by carious characters from the film.
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Sonne [Sun] (2022)

Sonne
Director: Kurdwin Ayub
Writer: Kurdwin Ayub
Cast: Melina Benli, Law Wallner, Maya Wopienka, Thomas Momcinovic, Marlene Hauser, Lia Wilfing, Margarete Tiesel
Seen on: 13.9.2022

Plot:
Yesmin (Melina Benli), Bella (Law Wallner) and Nati (Maya Wopienka) are best friends. On a bored afternoon, they shoot a music video to Losing My Religion using the hijabs of Yesmin’s mother. The video goes a bit viral, and the three girls rise to celebrity in the local muslim community, asked to perform at various events. But Yesmin – the only one of them who actually wears a hijab – grows increasingly uncomfortable with the situation and her friends’ behavior.

Sonne is Ayub’s fictional debut and proves her great talent. The film is creative and funny, but also serious and insightful about the situation of diasporic Kurds, especially young women. I was really impressed by it.

The film poster showing Yesmin (Melina Benli), Bella (Law Wallner) and Nati (Maya Wopienka) singing.
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The Craft: Legacy (2020)

The Craft: Legacy
Director: Zoe Lister-Jones
Writer: Zoe Lister-Jones
Sequel to/Reboot of: The Craft
Cast: Cailee Spaeny, Zoey Luna, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, David Duchovny, Michelle Monaghan, Nicholas Galitzine, Julian Grey, Charles Vandervaart, Donald MacLean Jr., Fairuza Balk
Seen on: 11.9.2022

Plot:
Lily (Cailee Spaeny) and her mother Helen (Michelle Monaghan) have always been a team. Now that Helen has met Adam (David Duchovny) and fallen in love, they are moving to a new town together so Helen can be with him. For Lily, it may be a chance to start over socially. Instead she has a rather mortifying start at school and is immediately teased by Timmy (Nicholas Galitzine). But her classmates Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Frankie (Gideon Adlon) and Tabby (Lovie Simone) show her some kindness. What Lily doesn’t know yet: the three girls are witches looking for a fourth to complete their coven. And they may just have found that in Lily.

The Craft: Legacy is more an update of the original Craft film than a sequel, and I have to say that it is an update that I appreciated a lot since it rectifies some of the (narrative) mistakes that the first movie made. I really enjoyed it.

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Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

Resident Evil: Afterlife
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: the video game series
Sequel to: Resident Evil, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Resident Evil: Extinction
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Wentworth Miller, Shawn Roberts, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Boris Kodjoe, Kim Coates, Spencer Locke, Sienna Guillory, Kacey Clarke, Norman Yeung, Fulvio Cecere
Seen on: 10.9.2022

Plot:
Alice (Milla Jovovich) is still on her mission against the Umbrella Corporation. When she has finally dealt them a harsh blow, she heads to Arcadia, supposed safe haven, to catch up with her friends. But instead of paradise, she finds Claire (Ali Larter) in a bad state and with some amnesia. Returning to LA, they receive a call for help from a group sheltering in place in an abandoned prison, surrounded by zombies. The group does have news about Arcadia, but no way out. Unless the mysterious prisoner Chris (Wentworth Miller) speaks the truth. But can they risk it?

Resident Evil: Afterlife is pretty much what I’ve come to expect from this movie series. That is: it’s okay, but not great, with some good action and some questionable narrative choices. But to really love the movies, you’ll probably have to have played the games and I didn’t.

The film poster showing Alice (Milla Jovovich, with two guns pointing upwards. It's raining.
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Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Punisher: War Zone
Director: Lexi Alexander
Writer: Nick Santora, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Based on: Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru‘s comic character
Cast: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchison, Colin Salmon, Wayne Knight, Dash Mihok, Julie Benz, Stephanie Janusauskas
Seen on: 7.9.2022

Plot:
The Punisher (Ray Stevenson) has been haunting the city for six years now – six years where he killed the villains of New York. The police haven’t caught up with him, despite knowing that he is Frank Castle, but they are not entirely dissatisfied with his work, so their motivation is not very high. During yet another shoot-out with the mob, Frank not only maims heavy hitter Billy (Dominic West), but he also kills an undercover cop. This prompts renewed interest in the police investigation, and it makes Billy – who had prided himself on his looks so far – swear revenge on The Punisher.

Punisher: War Zone is an extremely gory and violent take on the Punisher that glorifies him a little too much for my taste.

The film poster showing Frank Castle aka The Punisher (Ray Stevenson) shooting his guns.
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How Do You Know (2010)

How Do You Know
Director: James L. Brooks
Writer: James L. Brooks
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson, Kathryn Hahn, Tony Shalhoub, Dean Norris, Teyonah Parris
Seen on: 6.9.2022

Plot:
Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) is a softball player who lives for the game. But when she is cut from the team, she has to reconfigure her entire life. That also includes deciding about her relationship with Matty (Owen Wilson), a baseball player with certain commitment issues. Her teammate (Teyonah Parris) tries to set her up with George (Paul Rudd), but George is going through a rather tumultuous life phase himself, to put it mildly: under investigation for fraud, he lost his job at his father’s (Jack Nicholson) company. Despite everything, Lisa and George meet for a friendly dinner, and actually have a connection. Now they both have to figure out where their life should be heading.

How Do You Know is okay overall, but it only gets really good at certain points. It’s watchable, but it is not particularly exciting or memorable.

The movie poster showing separate headshots of Lisa (Reese Witherspoon), Matty (Owen Wilson), George (Paul Rudd) and Charles (Jack NIcholson).
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Les liaisons dangereuses [Dangerous Liaisons] (2022)

Les liaisons dangereuses
Director: Rachel Suissa
Writer: Rachel Suissa, Slimane-Baptiste Berhoun
Based on: Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s novel
Cast: Paola Locatelli, Simon Rérolle, Ella Pellegrini, Héloïse Janjaud, Jin Xuan Mao, Oscar Lesage
Seen on: 4.9.2022
[Here are my reviews of other adaptations of the novel.]

Content Note: misogyny

Plot:
Célène (Paola Locatelli) just moved to Biarritz from Paris, leaving behind her fiancé Pierre (Aymeric Fougeron). Just after her arrival, she meets surf champion Tristan (Simon Rérolle), more or less local celebrity and one half of the power couple of their school. The other half is Vanessa (Ella Pellegrini), child actor and star. What the people around them don’t know, though, is that they’re not actually together, but rather pretend for social media fame. They spend their time by making bets and manipulating the people around them. Tristan is intrigued by Célène, especially her promise to Pierre to marry him and stay a virgin until then. Vanessa uses that to make a bet with him, daring him to seduce her. But things become really complicated when Tristan and Célène find themselves drawn to each other for real.

The novel Les liaisons dangereuses is one of my favorites (despite some issues I do have with it), so I was really excited to get this new adaptation – the first one by a woman, if I’m not mistaken. But unfortunately, the modernization here didn’t work for me at all.

The film poster showing the central characters, with Célène (Paola Locatelli) front and center.
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I and the Stupid Boy (2021)

I and the Stupid Boy
Director: Kaouther Ben Hania
Writer: Kaouther Ben Hania
Cast: Oulaya Amamra, Sandor Funtek
Seen on: 4.9.2022

Content Note: intimate partner violence

Plot:
Nora (Oulaya Amamra) is preparing for a date, but as she heads out, she meets her ex-boyfriend Kevin (Sandor Funtek). What starts as innocous small talk quickly becomes a power struggle between the two.

I and the Stupid Boy is a sharp look at gender dynamics in relationships, and how men can quickly exert power about women in them. But while Nora’s desperation and helplessness are palpable, the film doesn’t stop there, but manages to turn things around, giving her her power back in a very satisfying way. It’s a really lovely short film that manages to say a lot in its short runtime.

Nora (Oulaya Amamra) walking in a dark, empty warehouse.