Christmas Wedding Planner (2017)

Christmas Wedding Planner
Director: Justin G. Dyck
Writer: Keith Cooper, Rebecca Lamarche
Based on: Stacy Connelly’s novel Once Upon a Wedding
Cast: Jocelyn Hudon, Stephen Huszar, Kelly Rutherford, Rebecca Dalton, Eric Hicks, Joey Fatone
Seen on: 21.12.2019

Plot:
Kelsey (Jocelyn Hudson) has dreamed of becoming a wedding planner. Now her cousin Emily (Rebecca Dalton) is getting married on Christmas and Kelsey is the one who gets to plan it – just the big break she needs! But she encounters a serius bump in her plans in the shape of Connor (Stephen Huszar). He is not only Emily’s ex, but also a private investigator who is determined to dig up any possible dirt on Emily’s fiancé Todd (Eric Hicks). Deciding that you should keep your enemies close, Kelsey agrees to help – which means she now has to juggle the wedding, the investigation and her attraction to Connor.

Christmas Wedding Planner feels a little painted by numbers (yes, even for a Christmas movie). It’s still watchable, but it is not a holiday movie highlight.

The flm poster showing a smiling couple in the upper half and three women in the lower.

[SPOILERS]

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Let It Snow (2019)

Let It Snow
Director: Luke Snellin
Writer: Laura Solon, Victoria Strouse, Kay Cannon
Based on: Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle‘s novel
Cast: Isabela Merced, Shameik Moore, Odeya Rush, Liv Hewson, Mitchell Hope, Kiernan Shipka, Matthew Noszka, Jacob Batalon, Miles Robbins, Joan Cusack, Anna Akana
Seen on: 21.12.2019

Plot:
Laurel, Illinois, is in the middle of nowhere and nothing much happens there. But with Christmas and a snowstorm both approaching, people come together that may not have otherwise. There’s young singer Stuart (Shameik Moore) who follows Julie (Isabela Merced) off a train when it gets stuck in the snow, so she can show him the sights of Laurel – or rather the sight: The Waffle House. Dorrie (Liv Hewson) works at the Waffle House together with Keon (Jacob Batalon), but she’s mostly busy with trying to help her best friend Addie (Odeya Rush) who has trouble with her boyfriend, and figuring out why Kerry (Anna Akana), whom she had an amazing connection with at a party, is showing her the cold shoulder now. Keon meanwhile wants to pull off the party of the century, but all his plans fall flat, so he ropes in Tobin (Mitchell Hope) to help. Tobin is preoccupied, though, because he wants to tell his best friend Duke (Kiernan Shipka) that he really likes her – which is not that easy.

Let It Snow was the kick-off film for my sappy Christmas movie binge that had me firmly in its grasp this holiday season, and it really was a nice start. A talented young cast, Joan Cusack and everything ending well is a good mix that gave me exactly what I was looking for.

The film poster showing 8 teenagers lying in the snow on their backs in a circle.
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Deathcember (2019)

Deathcember (I saw the version split into two films)
Part of: /slash Filmfestival Christmas screening
Seen on: 19.12.2019

Deathcember is an advent calendar in movie form, giving us 24 (plus some extra) Christmas-themed films to count down until Christmas. The films vary in style and tone, but they are all filled with (a) holiday spirit.

As with most anthologies, Deathcember has some clear winners and a few that were not for me (with the former being more present in the first volume and the latter more in the second volume), but I assume that the favorites and unfavorites will vary from person to person. It was definitely nice that they included more than the usual token female director (although there could have been more people of color involved). I was a little worried that so many short films in less than three hours would get a little too much, but it was surprisingly not-exhausting (I was glad that they showed the version split into two volumes). In short, it was a very fun evening. There are definitely worse ways to pass time during the holiday season.

After the jump, I talk about each of the segments individually. If you prefer to be surprised what’s behind those doors, you probably shouldn’t continue. But I won’t give away spoilers.

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Suspiria (1977)

Suspiria
Director: Dario Argento
Writer: Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi
Based on: Thomas De Quincey‘s essay collection Suspiria de Profundis
Cast: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosé, Barbara Magnolfi, Susanna Javicoli, Eva Axén, Rudolf Schündler, Udo Kier, Alida Valli, Joan Bennett
Seen on: 20.11.2018
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Plot:
Suzy (Jessica Harper) was accepted into the prestigious Tanz Akademie, a ballet school. But her arrival is off to a rocky start as she is first denied entrance and then hears of a dead dancer. But those are not the only strange things that go on at the academy, as Suzy soon finds out.

Suspiria is, of course, a classic in horror film history, but I have to admit that I don’t feel overly enthusiastic about it, though it has some fantastic visuals.

The film poster showing the stylized drawing of a ballet dancer in a big puddle of blood.
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#Female Pleasure (2018)

#Female Pleasure
Director: Barbara Miller
Writer: Barbara Miller
Seen on: 19.11.2018
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“Plot”:
Deborah Feldman, Leyla Hussein, Rokudenashiko, Doris Wagner and Vithika Yadav are five very different women from five very different countries and communities. But all five of them fight for a juster society for women, especially when it comes to their sexual self-determination and general bodily autonomy.

#Female Pleasure is a very interesting documentary. Despite the often very heavy and not at all positive topics, it manages to maintain a sense of sweetness and a sense of humor that I found quite enjoyable. But above all, it makes important and good points.

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Touch Me Not (2018)

Touch Me Not
Director: Adina Pintilie
Writer: Adina Pintilie
Cast: Laura Benson, Tómas Lemarquis, Christian Bayerlein, Grit Uhlemann, Hanna Hofmann, Seani Love, Adina Pintilie
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 6.11.2018
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Plot:
In this mix of fiction and documentary, Laura (Laura Benson), Tómas (Tómas Lemarquis) and Christian (Christian Bayerlein) share their journey of (re-)discovering intimacy, looking for connections and overcoming their fears by finding them.

Touch Me Not is a fantastic film. It’s touching, interesting, smart and full of insights. It’s not only a film about intimacy, it is a film that’s intimate itself, sharing something very valuable.

The film poster showing the upper body of a naked woman, throwing her head back mid-orgasm.
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Cassandro, the Exotico! (2018)

Cassandro, the Exotico!
Director: Marie Losier
Writer: Antoine Barraud, Marie Losier
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 5.11.2018
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“Plot”:
Saúl Armendáriz has spent over 25 years as the luchador Cassandro el exotico! and he has the body to show for it: aches and metal pins keep him both together and from continuing his career. But it’s not the only reason he finds himself in a difficult position: he is also gay and in the macho world of lucha libre, this is yet another fight – but one that Cassandro seems to have won. Nevertheless, facing the rest of his life, he has to figure out how to deal.

Cassandro the Exotico! is a mediocre documentary about a very interesting subject. Thanks to Cassandro and his charisma, it’s easy to look past the film’s weaknesses and enjoy it.

The film poster showing Cassandro in full Lucha Libre gear.
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Las hijas del fuego [The Daughters of Fire] (2018)

Las hijas del fuego
Director: Albertina Carri
Writer: Albertina Carri, Analía Couceyro
Cast: Disturbia Rocío, Violeta Valiente, Rana Rzonscinsky, Ivanna Colona Olsen, Carla Morales Ríos, Erica Rivas, Sofía Gala, Cristina Banegas
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 5.11.2018
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Plot:
Two women on a road trip: one wants to shoot a porn film, the other wants to see her family. They used to be lovers once, now they are again. They pick up a third woman and as they drive through Souther Argentina, they meet more women, discovering themselves and each other through sex, talking and traveling together.

Las hijas del fuego is basically high concept porn. Some parts of it worked for me, others didn’t so much. But it’s an interesting attempt in any case.

The film poster showing a clam in front of a black background, looking like a vulva.
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Wildlife (2018)

Wildlife
Director: Paul Dano
Writer: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan
Based on: Richard Ford‘s novel
Cast: Ed Oxenbould, Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mulligan, Travis W Bruyer, Zoe Margaret Colletti
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 5.11.2018
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Plot:
Joe (Ed Oxenbould) lives with his parents Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) in what could and should be the standard family of the 1950s. But when Jerry loses his job, things start to fall apart. He finally decides to leave town to find employment, effectively leaving Jeanette and Joe as well. Now Joe has to watch his mother trying to cope with the situation by flirting which puts him in a very difficult situation.

I’m afraid that my expectations for Wildlife were a little too high. It’s not bad, but it just isn’t as great as the cast would suggest.

The film poster showing Carey Mulligan and Jack Gyllenhaal sitting apart in front of a canvas showing the sky, looking at each other.
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Island of the Hungry Ghosts (2018)

Island of the Hungry Ghosts
Director: Gabrielle Brady
Writer: Gabrielle Brady
“Cast”: Arthur Floret, Poh Lin Lee
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 4.11.2018
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“Plot”:
Poh Lin Lee is a trauma therapist working with asylum seekers on Christmas Island, part of Australia. They are held in a detention center at the heart of the island that seeems otherwise like an idyllic tourist spot, especially in the season of crab migration that is quite a spectacle. Poh Lin has her work cut out for her with the desperate people she is supposed to councel without being able to offer much in the way of hope. As the crabs migrate and the Chinese islanders perform their yearly ritual for the hungry ghosts – people who died on the island without a proper burial – Poh Lin has to figure out how she can deal with everything.

That Island of Hungry Ghosts wouldn’t be exactly easy watching was clear from the get-go but I nevertheless didn’t expect it to hit me quite as hard as it did. Feeling more like a feature film than a documentary, Brady gets to the truth of the matter, and it really isn’t a pretty one. But it is a great film, even if it left me wanting a drink.

The film poster showing the sea hitting rocks.
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