Girl Asleep (2015)

Girl Asleep
Director: Rosemary Myers
Writer: Matthew Whittet
Based on: his own play
Cast: Bethany Whitmore, Harrison Feldman, Amber McMahon, Matthew Whittet, Eamon Farren, Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Danielle Catanzariti
Seen on: 6.4.2017

Plot:
Greta (Bethany Whitmore) is almost 15 and just started at a new school where she is befriended by Elliott (Harrison Feldman). When her well-meaning mother (Amber McMahon) wants to help her find her social footing by throwing a birthday party for Greta and inviting everyone, Greta is mortified. Feeling the pressure of the situation and of growing up in general, it’s no surprise that some of Greta’s fantasies my run away from her a little bit.

Girl Asleep is a funny and sweet film that shines when it works with fantasies but loses a bit of its glow when it turns to more mundane moments. Nevertheless, it’s a coming-of-age film that is worth checking out even in a well-saturated genre.

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Fences (2016)

Fences
Director: Denzel Washington
Writer: August Wilson
Based on: his own play
Cast: Denzel Washington, Viola DavisStephen HendersonJovan AdepoRussell HornsbyMykelti WilliamsonSaniyya Sidney
Seen on: 6.4.2017

Plot:
Troy (Denzel Washington) and Rose (Viola Davis) have been married for a long time. Their son Cory (Jovan Adepo) is 18 and dreams of starting a football career. When a recruiter is taking interest in him, Cory is overjoyed. But Troy, who narrowly missed a career in baseball due to racist hiring practices, doesn’t allow Cory to meet with the recruiter, causing a rift in the family with his continuous attempts to control everything and everyone around him.

Fences is a beautifully acted film that has a couple of lengths and an ending that didn’t work for me, but definitely a film that drew me in regardless.

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Wives on Strike (2016)

Wives on Strike
Director: Omoni Oboli
Writer: Omoni Oboli
Cast: Omoni Oboli, Uche Jombo, Chioma Akpotha, Ufuoma Mcdermott, Kehinde Bankole, Kalu Ikeagwu, Julius Agwu, Kenneth Okonkwo
Seen on: 5.4.2017

Plot:
Mama Ngozi (Omoni Oboli), Madame 12:30 (Uche Jombo), Mama Amina (Ufuoma McDermott) and another woman (Chioma Akpotha) are market women, wives and friends. Their lives move in rather set ways, but when Amina’s husband decides to marry off their 13-year-old daughter, they are not prepared to let him get away with it. Together they hatch a plan: they will go on strike and stop fulfilling what’s expected of them as wives to make their husbands see their true value and act accordingly.

I stumbled on Wives on Strike by chance (it was one of the films the airline I flew with offered) and when I read the description, I knew I had to watch it even though there was a risk that it would be rather horrible – often especially the films that attempt to be feminist are particularly awful. But it turns out that Wives on Strike is an entertaining, proto-feminist comedy that I rather enjoyed.

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Tanna (2015)

Tanna
Director: Martin Butler, Bentley Dean
Writer: Martin Butler, Bentley Dean, John Collee
Cast: Mungau Dain, Marie Wawa, Marceline Rofit, Charlie Kahla, Albi Nangia, Lingai Kowia, Dadwa Mungau, Linette Yowayin, Kapan Cook, Mungau Yokay, Mikum Tainakou
Seen on: 4.4.2017

Plot:
On a small pacific island ruled by a volcano and the patriarchal structure of the tribes that live on it, Wawa (Marie Wawa) and Dain (Mungau Dain) are in love. But after altercations with another tribe, Dain – the Chief’s grandson – is supposed to marry a woman from that other tribe to cement their peaceful relationship. But Wawa and Dain can’t accept their separation easily.

Tanna is an unusual film that deserves to be seen, although it also has a few lengths that kept me at a bit of a distance from the film.

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A United Kingdom (2016)

A United Kingdom
Director: Amma Asante
Writer: Guy Hibbert
Based on:  Susan Williams’ book Colour Bar
Cast: David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Tom Felton, Jack Davenport, Laura Carmichael, Terry Pheto, Jessica Oyelowo, Vusi Kunene, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Arnold Oceng, Abena Ayivor
Seen on: 3.4.2017

Plot:
Ruth (Rosamund Pike) works as a clerk and would mostly have a boring life if her sister (Laura Carmichael) didn’t drag her out every once in a while. On one of those outings, Ruth meets Seretse (David Oyelowo). He is charming, good-looking and taken by Ruth. But as Ruth discovers he is not just a student, but also the prince and future ruler of Bechuanaland. Despite the difficulties by their difference in status, the two want to get married, not anticipating that the real (diplomatic) scandal for both Bechuanaland and Great Britain is the fact that their relationship is an interracial one.

A United Kingdom covers a bit of history that is virtually unknown here (Austria or most likely Europe or the global North in general) and Asanta packs this fascinating story into an easily understood and emotionally engaging film with a great cast.

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Life (2017)

Life
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Writer: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Cast: Ryan ReynoldsRebecca Ferguson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dykhovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare
Seen on: 29.3.2017

Plot:
Six astronauts/scientists on the International Space Station study samples that have just been successfully collected on Mars. They hope to find out more about the conditions on Mars, but what they find instead is actually life: a single cell organism that’s either dead or dormant – but it’s there. They can barely contain their excitement, especially when their attempts to revive the organism are actually successful. But they have never encountered a live form like this – and it quickly turns out that it’s more than they bargained for.

Life is a decent, albeit derivative film that works pretty well – at least if you don’t keep comparing it with the Alien franchise it is a little sibling of.

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Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Beauty and the Beast
Director: Bill Condon
Writer: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Based on: Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont‘s fairy tale
Remake of: Beauty and the Beast
Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Hattie Morahan, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Nathan Mack, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Seen on: 29.3.2017

Plot:
Belle (Emma Watson) lives in a small village with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline), an inventor. Her life wouldn’t be so bad if the local library had more books and if village beau Gaston (Luke Evans) wasn’t constantly harrassing her with marriage proposals. Then one day, Maurice doesn’t return from the market as planned. When Belle sets out to find him, what she finds is an enchanted castle, where a Beast (Dan Stevens) is holding her father captive. Fearless as she is, Belle takes Maurice place. And she might just be what the Beast needed to break the curse that weighs on them all.

This live-action version of the film isn’t strictly necessary and there were a couple of things that really didn’t go all that well, but the film was nevertheless enjoyable and managed to capture the magic of the animated version at least in part.

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Doua lozuri [Two Lottery Tickets] (2016)

Doua lozuri
Director: Paul Negoescu
Writer: Paul Negoescu
Based on: Ion Luca Caragiale‘s short story
Cast: Dragos Bucur, Alexandru Papadopol, Dorian Boguta, Nora Cupcencu, Andi Vasluianu
Part of: Let’s CEE Film Festival
Seen on: 25.3.2017

Plot:
Sile (Dragos Bucur), Dine (Dorian Boguta) and Pompiliu (Alexandru Papadopol) are all in need of money, so they decide to play the lottery together – and they win. Unfortunately, though, the ticket has gone missing. Or maybe it was stolen? Hoping to get it back, the three friends take to the road, but things become more difficult than anticipated and the merry chase even merrier.

Two Lottery Tickets doesn’t bring a new story, but it does manage to be quite funny regardless – that is, when it isn’t being sexist and antisemitic. Unfortunately, it is sexist and antisemitic a lot.

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Tiszta szívvel [Kills on Wheels] (2016)

Tiszta szívvel
Director: Attila Till
Writer: Attila Till
Cast: Szabolcs Thuróczy, Zoltán Fenyvesi, Ádám Fekete, Mónika Balsai, Lídia Danis, Dusán Vitanovics
Part of: Let’s CEE Film Festival
Seen on: 25.3.2017

Plot:
Zolika (Zoltán Fenyvesi) and Barba Papa (Ádám Fekete) are best friends who dream of action. When they meet Rupaszov (Szabolcs Thuróczy), a former firefighter who has to use a wheelchair since an accident, they find the perfect place for their fantasies in his bitter and rough personality and the fact that he works for the mafia as a hitman. Zoli and Barba are looking for adventure and money – Zoli needs a life-saving surgery he can’t afford – and so they become Rupaszov’s assistants.

Tiszta szívvel is not only a very entertaining and well-made film, it’s also excellent disability representation (at least for disabled men). I wish there were more films like it.

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Moonlight (2016)

Moonlight
Director: Barry Jenkins
Writer: Barry Jenkins
Based on: Tarell Alvin McCraney‘s unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue
Cast: Alex R. HibbertAshton SandersTrevante Rhodes, Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, André Holland, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, Naomie Harris
Seen on: 14.3.2017

Plot:
Chiron, called Little (Alex R. Hibbert), grows up in a rather rough neighborhood in Miami. One day, as he runs from bullies, drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali) find him and, together with his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe), they offer Chiron a place where he can find the safety his own mother (Naomie Harris), an addict, is unable to give him. And Chiron, who struggles not only with being bullied but also with his crush on Kevin (Jaden Piner) and what that means for his life, needs sanctuary maybe more than most. But things don’t last and as Chiron grows to an adolescent (Ashton Sanders) and then a young man (Trevante Rhodes), he continues to fight and find a place in this world where he can just be.

Moonlight is a beautiful, emotional film that tells a story from an unusual and very much needed point of view. It’s a film very every frame is in the right place, the soundtrack complements the story perfectly and it hits every emotional beat for maximum effect. It’s amazing.

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