Sonne [Sun] (2022)

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

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

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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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

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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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

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

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.

The Invitation (2022)

The Invitation
Director: Jessica M. Thompson
Writer: Blair Butler
Cast: Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Stephanie Corneliussen, Alana Boden, Sean Pertwee, Hugh Skinner, Virág Bárány, Courtney Taylor, Carol Ann Crawford
Seen on: 2.9.2022

Ever since the death of her parents, her mother dying only recently, Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) has been feeling at a loss as she has no other family. Or so she thought. On a whim, she sends in a DNA kit to a website connecting relatives and lo and behold, there is a cousin of hers in the UK – Oliver (Hugh Skinner). And Oliver is not only overjoyed to meet Evie, he is also rich enough to invite her back to the UK to attend a wedding in the extended family and meet everybody. That includes not only her family, but also Walt (Thomas Doherty), her most charming host. But even as Evie settles into the luxurious life of old money, she can’t shake the sense that there is something more going on here.

The Invitation is not great, but it is good enough to be entertaining and Nathalie Emmanuel is radiant. Plus, it has the most menacing manicure I have ever seen in my life.

The film poster showing Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) dressed in a bridal gown, blood on her mouth and with rolled back eyes sitting on a throne. Walt (Thomas Doherty) ist standing behind her, one hand on her shoulder.
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Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022)

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Director: Sophie Hyde
Writer: Katy Brand
Cast: Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack, Isabella Laughland
Seen on: 2.9.2022

Nancy (Emma Thompson) is a retired teacher and a widow who has never had an orgasm in her life. Generally, she feels incredibly inexperienced sexually. But she is about to change that. She has hired sex worker Leo (Daryl McCormack) to expand her sexual horizons. Even with that decision, though, this is easier said than done.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a rather revolutionary character study that centers the sexuality of older women and the emotional entanglements that come with sex. It’s beautiful, insightful and touching and blows the boundaries of what we usually get to see on screen wide open.

The film poster showing Leo (Daryl McCormack) and Nancy (Emma Thompson) sitting half-undressed on the floor at the foot of the bed.
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Fucking with Nobody (2020)

Fucking with Nobody
Director: Hannaleena Hauru
Writer: Hannaleena Hauru, Lasse Poser
Cast: Hannaleena Hauru, Lasse Poser, Tanja Heinänen, Samuel Kujala, Anna Kuusamo, Jussi Lankoski, Sara Melleri, Hanna-Kaisa Tianen, Pietu Wikström
Seen on: 30.8.2022

Content note: sexual assault

Hannaleena (Hannaleena Hauru) is a filmmaker who just lost a project to her male colleague Kristian (Jussi Lankoski). Deeply upset by that loss, and pissed off at the cheesy social media presence Kristian cultivates with his girlfriend Shirley (Anna Kuusamo), who just happens to be the star of the stolen project, Hannaleena bets her friends that she can take an equally romantic and sappy instagram picture with her friend Ekku (Samuel Kujala) in minutes. What starts as a joke becomes a big parody project when the image of Hannaleena and Ekku takes off on insta and Hannaleena gets comments congratulating her on the new relationship. Pretty soon all of Hannaleena’s friends, including camera man Lasse (Lasse Poser) and her sister Viima (Sara Melleri) are working on creating the perfect couple online. But the project goes into very unforeseen directions.

Fucking with Nobody is a delightful piece of autofiction/metafiction, a feminist movie that wonders about the difficulties of making a feminist film, and it is funny to boot. I absolutely loved it.

The film poster showing Hannaleena and Ekku wearing identical make-up, pulling each other's hair and grabbing at each other.
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Before I Sleep (2020)

Before I Sleep
Director: Victoria Shefer
Writer: Victoria Shefer
Based on: Robert Frost‘s poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Cast: Lee Rayne
Seen on: 24.8.2022

Every year, Ms Barrow (Lee Rayne) comes back to the beach to remember her dead child on its birthday. Every year, she faces a choice again.

Before I Sleep is an atmospheric short film with really spectacular cinematography, especially considering that it’s a basically-no-budget production. I especially liked a moment where the film is edited out of order as Ms Barrow falls/throws herself into the waves. The sound mixing is a little off, or maybe just not calibrated to my home set-up, making the words hard to understand over the music, but since Frost’s poem is the only text in the film and is readily available online, it doesn’t matter that much. The emotion of Rayne’s delivery finds its way to the audience regardless. In short, a promising short from a young filmmaker.

The film poster showing a woman on a cliff over the sea, holding up her left hand, palm up.

Burn Burn Burn (2015)

Burn Burn Burn
Director: Chanya Button
Writer: Charlie Covell
Cast: Chloe Pirrie, Laura Carmichael, Joe Dempsie, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Sally Phillips, Jack Farthing, Alison Steadman, Jane Asher, Eleanor Matsuura, Alice Lowe
Seen on: 14.8.2022

Seph (Laura Carmichael) and Alex (Chloe Pirrie) have just lost their best friend, Dan (Jack Farthing), to cancer. Still reeling from the loss, Dan’s parents let them know that Dan left videos for them: he wants them to spread his ashes at very specific places all over the UK, with a video message for each of the stops. Dan hopes that it will give the two of them some time to think about their lives. Seph and Alex are little taken by Dan’s idea. But when Alex finds her girlfriend (Eleanor Matsuura) cheating, and Seph quits her job and finds her boyfriend James (Joe Dempsie) more and more clingy, the two decide to go on the road trip after all.

Burn Burn Burn is a debut feature and it feels very young at times, charming, but also a little naive. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I caught myself rather smiling at its ideas than being touched by them.

The film poster showing Seph (Laura Carmichael) standing on a car, trying to get cell reception) while Alex (Chloe Pirrie) is studying a paper map.
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