O Animal Cordial [Friendly Beast] (2017)

O Animal Cordial
Director: Gabriela Amaral
Writer: Gabriela Amaral, Luana Demange
Cast: Murilo Benício, Luciana Paes, Irandhir Santos, Camila Morgado, Jiddu Pinheiro, Ernani Moraes, Humberto Carrão, Ariclenes Barroso, Eduardo Gomes, Thais Aguiar, Diego Avelino
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2018
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Plot:
Things are slow in Inácio’s (Murilo Benício) restaurant, meaning that there is more room for his temper to flare up – as it does often, especially with his cook Djair (Irandhir Santos), but also with customer. The waitress Sara (Luciana Paes) tries to do right by them all, but especially Inácio whom she feels drawn to. But everybody’s night takes a turn for the worse when armed robbers storm the restaurant and rack up the tension.

O Animal Cordial started off pretty nicely, but then didn’t manage to retain the tension necessary to keep me invested in the film and the characters.

The film poster showing a man looking in a broken mirror.
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The Field Guide to Evil (2018)

The Field Guide to Evil
Segment 1: Die Trud [The Sinful Women of Höllfall]
Director: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Writer: Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz
Cast: Marlene Hauser, Birgit Minichmayr, Karin Pauer, Luzia Oppermann
Segment 2: Al Karisi [Haunted by Al Karisi]
Director: Can Evrenol
Writer: Elif Domanic, Can Evrenol
Cast: Naz Sayiner, Sureyya Kucuk
Segment 3: Kindler i dziewica [The Kindler and the Virgin]
Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska
Writer: Robert Bolesto
Cast: Andrzej Konopka, Kordian Kadziela
Segment 4: The Melon Heads
Director: Calvin Reeder
Writer: Calvin Reeder
Cast: Sarah Navratil, Jilon VanOver, Claude Duhamel, Paul Ford, Kannon Hicks
Segment 5: What Ever Happened to Panagas the Pagan?
Director: Yannis Veslemes
Writer: Yannis Veslemes
Cast: Vangelis Mourikis, Antonis Tsiotsiopoulos, Vasilis Kamitsis, Panagiotis Papadopoulos, Nikos Dallas
Segment 6: Palace of Horrors
Director: Ashim Ahluwalia
Writer: Ashim Ahluwalia
Cast: Niharika Singh
Segment 7: A Nocturnal Breath
Director: Katrin Gebbe
Writer: Katrin Gebbe, Silvia Wolkan
Cast: Thomas Schubert, Lili Epply
Segment 8: The Cobblers’ Lot
Director: Peter Strickland
Writer: Peter Strickland
Cast: Fatma Mohamed, Károly Hajduk, László Konter, Péter Jankovics
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2018
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The Field Guide to Evil collects eight different segments from eight different countries that all build from a local legend. As usual with anthology films, Field Guide to Evil is a mixed bag of beans. There are some very good segments, but also some that didn’t really work for me. But I would say, it’s worth seeing because the good parts are really very good.

The film poster showing a young woman lying on her back, her eyes rolled back, her mouth open with a man's hand at her chin.

[More about each of the segments after the jump.]

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Summer of 84 (2018)

Summer of 84
Director: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Writer: Matt Leslie, Stephen J. Smith
Cast: Graham Verchere, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery, Cory Gruter-Andrew, Tiera Skovbye, Rich Sommer
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 24.9.2018
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Plot:
A serial killer has been active in Cape May, leaving the area in a constant state of vigilance. This includes Davey (Graham Verchere), though to be fair, he doesn’t need much prompting to see mysteries and conspiracies everywhere. That’s why not even his friends Woody (Caleb Emery), Curtis (Cory Grüter-Andrew) and Eats (Judah Lewis) believe him, when Davey starts to suspect that his neighbor, police officer Wayne Mackey (Rich Sommer), is the Cape May Slayer. Nevertheless, after yet another suspicious disappearance, the four start to investigate Mackey.

Summer of 84 starts as an hommage to the 80s adventure film, perfectly evoking the look and feel of them. But it isn’t content with “just” paying hommage, and takes quite a turn in the end that both makes and breaks the film.

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The Ranger (2018)

The Ranger
Director: Jenn Wexler
Writer: Giaco Furino, Jenn Wexler
Cast: Chloë Levine, Jeremy Holm, Granit Lahu, Jeremy Pope, Bubba Weiler, Amanda Grace Benitez, Jeté Laurence, Larry Fessenden
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 22.9.2018
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Plot:
Chelsea (Chloë Levine), Garth (Granit Lahu), Abe (Bubba Weiler), Jerk (Jeremy Pope) and Amber (Amanda Grace Benitez) are all at the same punk club when it gets raided by the police. The five of them make their escape together, but not before Garth actually stabs a police man to avoid getting caught with drugs on his person. Hoping to find refuge in the hunting cabin of Chelsea’s family, they set out for the woods. Once there, a Park Ranger (Jeremy Holm) gets on their case.

The Ranger was a bit underwhelming, I have to admit. It just didn’t really come together for me, although I did like the idea.

The film poster showing a man in a hat and with sunglasses in shades of blue and black.
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Blue My Mind (2017)

Blue My Mind
Director: Lisa Brühlmann
Writer: Lisa Brühlmann, Dominik Locher
Cast: Luna Wedler, Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen, Regula Grauwiller, Georg Scharegg, Lou Haltinner, Yael Meier
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 21.9.2018
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Plot:
Mia (Luna Wedler) just moved to a new place with her parents. Trying to find her place at her new school, she finds the popular Gianna (Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen) and her friends who spend most of her time partying with alcohol and drugs. Mia starts to hang out with them and pushing her own limits. But it’s not only her behavior that changes: Mia’s body is starting to become very different as well.

Blue My Mind is a queer coming of age monster film – what’s not to love about that? I was very impressed by the film, especially considering that it’s the film school graduation piece by writer and director Brühlmann.

The film poster showing Luna Wedler and Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen.
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Jessica Forever (2018)

Jessica Forever
Director: Caroline Poggi, Jonathan Vinel
Writer: Caroline Poggi, Jonathan Vinel
Cast: Aomi Muyock, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Augustin Raguenet, Lukas Ionesco, Paul Hamy, Eddy Suiveng, Maya Coline, Angelina Woreth, Théo Costa-Marini
Part of: Toronto International Film Festival
Seen on: 12.9.2018

Plot:
In a dystopian world constantly patrolled by drones, Jessica (Aomi Muyock) is the leader / mother figure for a group of young men. They are the drone’s prime targets and Jessica does her best to keep them all alive, but at the same time tries to retain some sense of normality and civility for them. The newest boy to join them is Michael (Sebastian Urzendowsky) who still has much to learn until he can fit in with them.

Jessica Forever was a film that alternately bored me and made me angry. It makes little to nothing of its setting and it confuses a female character wearing a uniform with an actually strong female character. It’s pretty frustrating.

The film poster showing Aomi Muyock.
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Vita & Virginia (2018)

Vita & Virginia
Director: Chanya Button
Writer: Eileen Atkins, Chanya Button
Based on: Vita Sackville-West‘s and Virginia Woolf‘s letters
Cast: Gemma Arterton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isabella Rossellini, Rupert Penry-Jones, Peter Ferdinando, Emerald Fennell, Gethin Anthony, Rory Fleck Byrne, Karla Crome
Part of: Toronto International Film Festival
Seen on: 11.9.2018

Plot:
Vita (Gemma Arterton) and Virginia (Elizabeth Debicki) move in similar social circles, but have yet to meet personally. Vita has admired Virginia from afar and she is determined to become friends with her. Virginia is taken aback by Vita’s adamant attempts at first, but she has to admit that she is also drawn to Vita. It doesn’t take long and they become friends, then lovers, inspiring each other in their writing. Despite their progressive surroundings, not everybody can deal equally well with their relationship though.

With Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf being who they were and having led the lives they led, it is hard to imagine a film about them that wouldn’t be at least interesting. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the film would have been well-made. In this case, luckily, the film is not only interesting, it is very well-made indeed.

Film poster showing Gemma Arterton and Elizabeth Debicki leaning against each other.
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A Million Little Pieces (2018)

A Million Little Pieces
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Writer: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Sam Taylor-Johnson
Based on: James Frey‘s memoir/novel
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Odessa Young, Charlie Hunnam, Juliette Lewis, Giovanni Ribisi, Billy Bob Thornton, David Dastmalchian, Dash Mihok, Ryan Hurst
Part of: Toronto International Film Festival
Seen on: 11.9.2018

Plot:
After falling from a balcony because he is so high, James (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is finally admitted into a rehab center in Minnesota by his brother (Charlie Hunnam). As James slowly starts to work through is own issues and becoming clean, he gets to know his rehab colleagues, above all Lilly (Odessa Young) whom he feels very drawn to, his roommate (Giovanni Ribisi) and Leonard (Billy Bob Thornton) who becomes something like a guide for him.

A Million Little Pieces is a strong film that interestingly enough puts the body front and center, drawing on dance as a form of expression and is much more serious and less sensationalistic than I expected after the book’s history. I was much more impressed by it than I thought it would be.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the film.
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Tell It to the Bees (2018)

Tell It to the Bees
Director: Annabel Jankel
Writer: Henrietta Ashworth, Jessica Ashworth
Based on: Fiona Shaw‘s novel
Cast: Anna Paquin, Holliday Grainger, Gregor Selkirk, Lauren Lyle, Kate Dickie, Joanne Gallagher, Emun Elliott, Billy Boyd
Part of: Toronto International Film Festival
Seen on: 10.9.2018

Plot:
Jean (Anna Paquin) is a doctor who returns to her small hometown. She is slowly settling into her new role, when Lydia (Holliday Grainger) brings in her son Charlie (Gregor Selkirk) who was bullied. The two women instantly like each other. When Lydia, whose husband left her, can’t make rent anymore, she turns to Jean for help and Jean offers her and Charlie to stay with her, quickly deepening their friendship and turning it into something else.

Tell It to the Bees is a wonderful film with one big flaw: it shies away from the happy ending for its two protagonists. But other than that, it is simply lovely.

The film poster showing Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger embracing in front of a honeycomb background.
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Where Hands Touch (2018)

Where Hands Touch
Director: Amma Asante
Writer: Amma Asante
Cast: Amandla Stenberg, George MacKay, Abbie Cornish, Christopher Eccleston, Tom Goodman-Hill, Alec Newman, Will Attenborough
Part of: Toronto International Film Festival
Seen on: 9.9.2018

Plot:
Leyna (Amandla Stenberg) is a German bi-racial teenager. When Hitler rises to power in Germany, she gets caught between the lines: her German-ness is disputed because of the color of her skin, no matter how hard Leyna fights for her place. Lutz (George MacKay), on the other hand, is just what the nazis like: blond, German, member of the Hitler youth and son of a high-ranking SS officer (Christopher Eccleston). When the two of them meet, they are drawn to each other, but they are in the worst position to live their love.

Where Hands Touch tackles a really interesting topic that hasn’t been looked at a lot (at least in popular media): what happened with and to black Germans in World War Two? Unfortunately, the way it goes about it, is a little clumsy.

The film poster showing Amandla Stenberg in front of a building with nazi flags and airplanes flying over it.
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