Love Hard (2021)

Love Hard
Director: Hernan Jimenez
Writer: Daniel Mackey, Rebecca Ewing
Cast: Nina Dobrev, Jimmy O. Yang, Darren Barnet, James Saito,Rebecca Staab, Harry Shum Jr., Althea Kaye, Mikaela Hoover
Seen on: 13.5.2022

Content Note: ableism/lookism/fatmisia – don’t exactly know how to classify it

Plot:
Natalie (Nina Dobrev) writes a column about her dating experiences. Usually it’s about how aweful they are. But when she starts chatting with Josh (Jimmy O. Yang) online, it seems that she has finally been lucky. Except for the fact that he lives on the other side of the country. As Christmas comes nearer and their relationship deepens, Natalie decides to throw caution overboard. She simply books a flight to surprise Josh. But when she gets to Josh’s family home, she discovers that Josh has catfished her: he used photos of Tag (Darren Barnet) to lure her in. She is mortified, but the two strike a deal: she will pretend to be his girlfriend for the holidays, and he will help her meet the actual Tag.

I don’t usually watch Christmas movies in May, but I honestly overlooked that this was a Christmas movie in the first place. Anyhow, maybe it was the time mismatch, but Love Hard didn’t quite give me the fuzzy feelings I was looking for.

The film poster showing Natalie (Nina Dobrev) holding a cell phone. Below her we can see two drawn cell phones, one showing Josh (Jimmy O. Yang) smiling awkwardly, and the other Tag (Darren Barnet) looking ruggedly handsome.
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The Adam Project (2022)

The Adam Project
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Jonathan Tropper, T.S. Nowlin, Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, Zoe Saldana, Catherine Keener
Seen on: 11.5.2022

Plot:
Adam (Walker Scobell) is twelve years old and a bit of a nerd. Since his father (Mark Ruffalo) recently died, he lives alone with his mother (Jennifer Garner) on a remote bit of land, dreaming of becoming cool. Or at least not bullied anymore. That’s when a space craft crashlands close to his home. And out of that spacecraft steps nobody else but himself – only 30 years older (Ryan Reynolds). Older Adam is on a very important mission. And he needs Young Adam’s help to finish it.

The Adam Project is fun enough. I like time travel stories in general, and this one is very sweet, albeit not terribly creative or ground-breaking. But it comes with a solid emotional core that makes it quite touching.

The film poster showing close-ups of the main characters in front of a space background.
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The Raven (2012)

The Raven
Director: James McTeigue
Writer: Hannah Shakespeare, Ben Livingston
Cast: John Cusack, Luke Evans, Alice Eve, Brendan Gleeson, Kevin McNally, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Jimmy Yuill, Sam Hazeldine
Seen on: 9.5.2022

Plot:
Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) is not what one would consider a successful writer. Barely making enough money, poverty exacerbated by a drinking problem, he has really nothing but a bit of infamy. He would like to marry Emily Hamilton (Alice Eve), and she him, but her father Captain Hamilton (Brendan Gleeson) disapproves. When a mother and daughter turn up murdered just like in one of of Poe’s stories, the suspicion of the police fall on him at first. Especially when another body turns up. But Poe can convince Detective Fields (Luke Evans) that he is not to blame. Instead, they team up to find the killer before he can use another of Poe’s stories.

Although the film is loosely inspired by some circumstances of Poe’s life, you should not make the mistake of thinking it is any way, shape, or form realistic. It’s the fever dream version of Poe’s last weeks of life. Unfortunately, it’s not a particularly interesting fever dream.

The film poster showing Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) walking fiercely, gun in hand. In the background behind him stretch a pair of red wings in which we can see a crying woman, a dead body and men looking fiercely.
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Pahanhautoja [Hatching] (2022)

Pahanhautoja
Director: Hanna Bergholm
Writer: Hanna Bergholm, Ilja Rautsi
Cast: Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä, Jani Volanen, Reino Nordin, Oiva Ollila, Ida Määttänen
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 7./8.5.2022

Plot:
Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) grows up in what seems to be the perfect family. Her mother (Sophia Heikkilä) is an influencer who very carefully curates the family’s image to keep up this image of perfection. Her father (Jani Volanen) is not that present, but plays along. And her little brother Matias (Oiva Ollila) always tries to get the better of Tinja. When Tinja finds an egg in the forst, she decides to hatch it. Only it keeps growing. And when Tinja, an aspiring gymnast, fails to meet her mother’s expectations, trouble seems inevitable.

Hatching gives us a great set-up and a really interesting central metaphor, but it doesn’t quite come togethere. With the idea, I feel like we could have dug a little deeper and discovered a little more. Maybe even a sense of humor. As is, it feels a little like it’s missing the final oomph.

The film poster showing Tinja (Siiri Solalinna) in silhouette against a floral background. She is cradling a large egg that glows red.
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Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2021)

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Jeon Jong-seo, Evan Whitten, Kate Hudson, Ed Skrein, Craig Robinson
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 6.5.2022

Plot:
Mona (Jeon Jong-seo) has been locked away in a psychiatric facility because she has special powers – she can control others with her mind. But now she is finally able to escape and makes her way to the next city, New Orleans. Unused to dealing with the world, she stands out. When she meets stripper Bonnie (Kate Hudson) and Bonnie realizes what she is capable of, she takes her under her wing and together, they start a more or less new life.

So far, I didn’t really like Amirpour’s movies, but I’m happy to say that I very much enjoyed Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon that is a film that is a) not as obsessed with style as her other features and b) doesn’t take itself all that seriously. That means, it’s a film that has room for heart – and that’s just what I like to see.

Mona Lisa (Jeon Jong-seo) pressing against the window of a diner.
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Inexorable (2021)

Inexorable
Director: Fabrice du Welz
Writer: Joséphine Darcy Hopkins, Aurélien Molas, Fabrice du Welz
Cast: Benoît Poelvoorde, Mélanie Doutey, Alba Gaïa Bellugi, Janaina Halloy, Anaël Snoek, Jackie Berroyer, Sam Louwyck
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 6.5.2022

Content Note: misogyny, animal death/cruelty, incest

Plot:
Marcel (Benoît Poelvoorde) is an author, supposed to be working on his next book that has been a long time coming. Together with his publisher and wife Jeanne (Mélanie Doutey) and their daughter Lucie (Janaina Halloy), they decide to withdraw to Jeanne’s family estate in the country for a bit of calm. Shortly after their arrival, Gloria (Alba Gaïa Bellugi) turns up, bringing back the family dog that ran off. Quickly, Gloria finds a place in their home as a housekeeper and friend to Lucie. But her presence has an unsettling effect on the family.

Inexorable had me rolling my eyes so much because it is, on the one hand, boringly familiar, and on the other hand, enragingly misogynistic.

The film poster showing Gloria (Alba Gaïa Bellugi) and Marcel (Benoît Poelvoorde) grabbing each other by the throat in a sexy way. He is turning around in suspicion. Behind them we see Jeanne (Mélanie Doutey) on the staircase in the distance.
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Upurga (2021) – DNF

Upurga
Director: Ugis Olte
Writer: Ugis Olte, Bojana Babic, Lucas Abrahão
Cast: Igors Selegovskis, Inga Tropa, Reinis Boters, Rihards Sniegs, Elvita Ragovska, Morten Traavik
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 5./6.5.2022

Plot:
Andrejs (Igors Selegovskis) works in an outdoor store. His sister Eva (Inga Tropa) is an actress who is planning to shoot a commercial with her boyfriend Oskars (Reinis Boters) behind the camera, Matiass (Rihards Sniegs) starring alongside her and Mara (Elvita Ragovska) directing – though everything is supposed to look like Eva and Matiass were alone in the wild. When Andrejs learns that they actually plan to go to Upurga to kayak without any guide, he is appalled – and offers his services. So the five go to the river together. But strange things soon start happening.

Upurga does a good job setting up its mystery and then not such a great job with keeping the tension or unraveling the story. Ultimately, I fell asleep and missed the last third or so, but I can’t say I regret not finishing the film.

The film poster showing an upsode down image of water. In the water we can see a female silhouette. Andrejs (Igors Selegovskis) runs along the watershore, upside down as well.
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The Lost City (2022)

The Lost City
Director: Aaron Nee, Adam Nee
Writer: Oren Uziel, Dana Fox, Adam Nee, Aaron Nee
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Brad Pitt, Oscar Nuñez, Patti Harrison, Bowen Yang
Seen on: 24.4.2022

Plot:
Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is a very successful romance novelist whose heroine Angela is an archaeologist – like Loretta herself. But since the death of her husband, Loretta has been unable to write. And so her latest novel ends in an awkward place for Angela and her love interest Dash. The planned book tour is off to a bad start then, especially since Loretta’s agent Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) invited cover model Alan (Channing Tatum) along. At least on a visual level, he is the embodiment of Dash. But Loretta absolutely loathes him. A feeling that is not reciprocated. And when Loretta gets taken by billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) for her archaeological expertise, it is Alan who sets out to rescue her, however inept his efforts are.

The Lost City is excellent fun, a great fusion of romance and adventure that pays hommage to both genres but not without some humorous irreverence. I had a great time with it.

The film psoter showing the main characters of the film in a collage in front of a volcano and jungle and an explosion.
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Rimini (2022)

Rimini
Director: Ulrich Seidl
Writer: Veronika Franz, Ulrich Seidl
Cast: Michael Thomas, Tessa Göttlicher, Hans-Michael Rehberg, Inge Maux, Claudia Martini, Georg Friedrich
Seen on: 23.4.2022

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, fascism

Plot:
Richie Bravo (Michael Thomas) is a “schlager” singer whose heyday has long been over. He lives in Rimini now where he barely gets by with performances for busloads of German-speaking tourists, the occasional sex work and renting out his house to fans while he himself goes to stay in a shabby room in one of the many hotels that are empty for winter. When his estranged daughter Tessa (Tessa Göttlicher) shows up to demand money from him, Richie needs all his (more or less sleazy) survival skills to comply with her request.

Rimini is a typical Seidl movie in a way, but there is an almost optimistic note at the end of the film that is rather untypical. In any case, it’s the portrait of a sleazy man that spares nothing, as it is the portrait of a tourist town without tourists.

The film poster showing Richie Bravo (Michael Thomas) performing on an empty stage in front of a glitter curtain.
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Afterlife of the Party (2021)

Afterlife of the Party
Director: Stephen Herek
Writer: Carrie Freedle
Cast: Victoria Justice, Midori Francis, Robyn Scott, Adam Garcia, Timothy Renouf, Gloria Garcia
Seen on: 24.3.2022

Plot:
Cassie (Victoria Justice) loves to party and to not take things seriously. This puts her at odds with her best friend since forever, Lisa (Midori Francis) who maybe takes things too seriously. On the occasion of Cassie’s birthday, they go out together with some of Cassie’s friends. When Lisa wants to head home, Cassie is upset and the two of them fight. The thing is: this is Cassie’s last night on Earth. Next thing she knows, it’s a year later and Cassie has to fix things with the most important people in her life – Lisa, her father (Adam Garcia) and her mother (Gloria Garcia) or she will have to spend her afterlife in hell instead of heaven. Fixing things is easier said than done, though.

Afterlife of the Party is okay. It’s not exactly great cinema but it is fun enough. I was a little disappointed, though, how the film interpreted “fixing things” with Lisa.

The film poster showing Cassie (Victoria Justice) in a sparkling dress raising a martini glass. Behind her are neon wings and a halo.
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