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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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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Tikli and Laxmi Bomb (2017)

Tikli and Laxmi Bomb
Director: Aditya Kripalani
Writer: Aditya Kripalani
Cast: Vibhawari DeshpandeChitrangada ChakrabortySuchitra PillaiSaharsh Kumar ShuklaMia MaelzerDivya UnnyKritika PandeUday AtroliaUpendra LimayeMayur MoreVikas Shukla
Seen on: 3.3.2018
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[Screener review.]

Plot:
Laxmi (Vibhawari Deshpande) has been a sex worker for quite a while, always under the protection of Mhatre (Upendra Limaye). When he brings her a new girl, Putul (Chitrangada Chakraborty), she knows she has to show her the ropes, even though she doesn’t much care for it – or for the bubbly and mouthy Putul. When Putul’s defiance leads her to talk about revolution – working for themselves rather than Mhatre – Laxmi is reluctant at first, but knows that Putul – nicknamed Tikli – makes good points.

Tikli and Laxmi Bomb is a smart and engaging film. It tells an emotional story with great characters while thoroughly examining an unfair and oppressive system.

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The Big Sick (2017)

The Big Sick
Director: Michael Showalter
Writer: Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani
Based on: their own lives
Cast: Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher, Zenobia Shroff, Adeel Akhtar, Bo Burnham
Seen on: 29.11.2017
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Plot:
Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) tries to make it as a stand-up comedian, a career choice he can’t really tell his parents about. But since they are mostly busy setting Kumail up with potential wives, much to his dismay, that doesn’t seem to be the biggest point of contention between them. When Kumail meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) and the two feel drawn to each other, it has the potential of making both of their lives much more complicated. Before they can figure anything out, though, Emily falls mysteriously ill and has to be put into a medically induced coma – and all the complications are sped up for all of them.

The Big Sick is a funny, touching and sweet film that I enjoyed a whole lot. It’s not necessarily a film that will keep me thinking for a long time, but that’s neither expected nor necessary.

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Daughters of the Dust (1991)

Daughters of the Dust
Director: Julie Dash
Writer: Julie Dash
Cast: Cora Lee Day, Alva Rogers, Barbarao, Trula Hoosier, Umar Abdurrahamn, Adisa Anderson, Kaycee Moore, Bahni Turpin, Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Tommy Redmond Hicks, Cornell Royal, M. Cochise Anderson
Seen on: 28.11.2017
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Plot:
It is the beginning of the 20th century and the still rather new abolishment of slavery tempts the Peazant family to leave the islands they have been living on and to attempt their luck on the USAmerican mainland. The islands and their isolation gave them the possibility to preserve some of their African ancestral traditions – the Gullah culture. So not everybody is willing to actually leave, while others can hardly wait. In any case, it’s time to make decisions.

Daughters of the Dust is an in the best sense unusual film in many ways. It is absolutely stunning in so many ways. It’s a film you should definitely watch – and then re-watch.

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Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Murder on the Orient Express
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Michael Green
Based on: Agatha Christie‘s novel
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr., Penélope Cruz, Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Olivia Colman, Willem Dafoe, Sergei Polunin, Lucy Boynton
Seen on: 24.11.2017
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Plot:
Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is supposed to take the Orient Express to travel from one case to his well-earned vacation. But as luck will have it, there’s a murder right there on the train. As it is stopped by an avalanche, Poirot takes up the case, determined to find out who among the illustrous guests was responsible for the death of Edward Ratchett (Johnny Depp). Unfortunately, the case is anything but straightforward as Poirot soon discovers.

Murder on the Orient Express starts off strong enough, but with every further plot twist, the film seems to slip more and more out of Branagh’s control. The result was mostly meh with a couple of shiny moments.

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Licht [Mademoiselle Paradis] (2017)

Licht [literally: Light]
Director: Barbara Albert
Writer: Kathrin Resetarits, Barbara Albert
Based on: Alissa Walser‘s novel Am Anfang war die Nacht Musik
Cast: Maria Dragus, Devid Striesow, Lukas Miko, Katja Kolm, Maresi Riegner, Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg, Stefanie Reinsperger, Christoph Luser, Susanne Wuest, Theresa Martini, Julia Pointner
Seen on: 23.11.2017
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Plot:
Maria-Theresia Paradis (Maria Dragus) is a gifted musician who lost her eyesight at a young age for no apparent reason. Now her parents have heard about the revolutionary methods of physician Franz Mesmer (Devid Striesow) and they are hoping that he will be able to restore her eyesight. So Maria-Theresia is brought to his castle where Mesmer sets to work. Soon their relationship becomes very intense and there seems to be improvement in her condition.

I was hoping I would like Licht more than I actually did. Unfortunately I was unhappy with the way the film dealt with disability and I felt that it had considerable lengths.

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Terror – Ihr Urteil [The Verdict] (2016)

Terror – Ihr Urteil
Director: Lars Kraume
Writer: Oliver Berben, Lars Kraume
Based on: Ferdinand von Schirach‘s play
Cast: Burghart Klaußner, Martina Gedeck, Florian David Fitz, Lars Eidinger, Jördis Triebel, Rainer Bock
Seen on: 22.11.2017
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Plot:
Soldier Lars Koch (Florian David Fitz) is on trial. He shot down a civilian plane that was abducted by terrorists who threatened to fly it into the next city which would have raised the death toll considerably. So Koch didn’t wait for orders, he decided on his own to shoot down the plane. Now the judge (Burghart Klaußner) and his jury have to decide whether Koch’s actions were justified. As Koch’s defendant (Lars Eidinger) and the district attorney (Martina Gedeck) make their cases, big philosophical questions arise.

Terror – Ihr Urteil was made for an audience that gets to play the part of the jury. So the people watching the film get to vote in the end whether Koch should be found guilty or innocent. Two endings were shot for the film and depending on the voting results, one of them is screened. I saw the film as part of a scientific conference that couched the film in a lot of interesting discussions (and was able to screen both endings). That conference also made it even clearer that Terror – Ihr Urteil is expertly made bullshit.

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Suburbicon (2017)

Suburbicon
Director: George Clooney
Writer: Joel CoenEthan Coen, George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Cast: Matt Damon, Julianne MooreOscar IsaacNoah JupeTony EspinosaKarimah Westbrook, Leith M. Burke, Richard Kind, Steve Monroe
Seen on: 20.11.2017
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Plot:
Suburbicon is a picture-perfect 1950s community, filled with happy, white, affluent, nuclear families. But then the Mayers (Kamirah Westbrook, Tony Espinosa, Leith M. Burke) move to Suburbicon. They are black and their arrival brings Suburbicon’s facade to crumble, exposing the community’s racism. Their next-door neighbor Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) has other issues, though: he, his wife Rose (Julianne Moore), her twin sister Margaret (Julianne Moore), and their son Nicky (Noah Jupe) are being robbed in their own home, with dire consequences. But that’s only the beginning of the troubles in Suburbicon.

I found Suburbicon pretty disappointing. I thought that it would be about racism, but it revolves much more around the Lodges and their story. And that story does have a Coen-esque feel, but one that doesn’t quite come together.

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Justice League (2017)

Justice League
Director: Zack Snyder, Joss Whedon
Writer: Chris Terrio, Joss Whedon
Based on: Gardner Foxteam-up of superheroes
Sequel to: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Cast: Ben Affleck, Henry CavillGal Gadot, Ezra MillerJason MomoaRay Fisher, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, J.K. Simmons, Ciarán Hinds, Amber Heard, Joe Morton, David Thewlis, Billy Crudup
Part of: DC movies
Seen on: 19.11.2017
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Plot:
After the death of Superman (Henry Cavill) Bruce Wayne aka Batman (Ben Affleck) tries to put together a team of superheroes. Diana aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is already on board, but the recruitment of other team members is more difficult. Arthur Curry aka Aquaman (Jason Momoa) isn’t interested, Barry Allen aka The Flash (Ezra Miller) is very willing but also not easily pinned down and Victor Stone aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher) might even be dead. But when Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds) attacks Diana’s home Themyscira to acquire an artefact, gathering forces becomes an even more pressing issues.

I expected bad things from Justice League and was pleasantly surprised by what we got. That’s not to say that Justice League is a good film overall, but at least it has its moments.

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