Hua li shang ban zu [Office] (2015)

Hua li shang ban zu
Director: Johnnie To
Writer: Sylvia Chang
Cast: Sylvia Chang, Yun-Fat Chow, Eason Chan, Wei Tang, Ziyi Wang, Yueting Lang, Siu-Fai Cheung, Tien-Hsin, Stephanie Che, Timmy Hung, Kin-Kwan Chu, Adrian Wong
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 23.9.2018
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Plot:
Ho Chung Ping (Yun-Fat Chow) runs a very successful company with Winnie Chang (Sylvia Chang) and they are about to take the company public. But with that move comes a lot of office politics, rivalry and interpersonal tensions. Caught up in it are two new assistants on their first day: Lee Xiang (Ziyi Wang) and Kat Ho (Yueting Lang). Lee is all optimism about his new job, while Kat desperately tries to hide the fact that she is Ho Chung Ping’s daughter.

Office is a musical that is generally underwhelming but has one of the greatest sets I have ever seen, making up for a lot, albeit not everything.

The film poster showing a group of people in business attire leaning on the word "office".
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St. Agatha (2018)

St. Agatha
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Writer: Andy Demetrio, Shaun Fletcher, Sara Sometti Michaels, Clint Sears
Cast: Sabrina Kern, Carolyn Hennesy, Courtney Halverson, Seth Michaels, Trin Miller, Lindsay Seim, Shaun Fletcher
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 23.9.2018
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Plot:
It’s the 50s in Georgia and Agatha (Sabrina Kern) is pregnant but unmarried. There’s only one place she can go: the convent that has been taking in women like her for many, many years now. What seems like the perfect place to have her child in peace and then be able to return to her old life as if nothing has happened, quickly turns sour as Agatha starts to find out more about the convent and what happens inside its walls.

St. Agatha didn’t work for me at all. On the one hand, it handles a very sensitive topic very badly and on the other hand it doesn’t make much sense. Additionaly, it’s so full of clichés, it made the entire thing even more annoying.

The film poster showing two nuns with covered faces standing over a girl cowering on the floor.

[SPOILERS]

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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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Book Club (2018)

Book Club
Director: Bill Holderman
Writer: Bill Holderman, Erin Simms
Cast: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, Ed Begley Jr., Richard Dreyfuss, Wallace Shawn, Alicia Silverstone, Katie Aselton, Mircea Monroe, Ravi Kapoor
Seen on: 14.9.2018

Plot:
Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen) and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) have had a book club for decades. They each take turns picking the books they read and this month it’s Vivian’s turn. Her choice is 50 Shades of Grey, much to the dismay of the other women. But as they start reading, they all start wondering about their own sexual and romantic lives: widowed Diane meets Mitchell (Andy Garcia); perpetual single Vivian reconnects with Arthur (Don Johnson); Carol rekindles the sexual side of her relationship with her husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson); and divorced Sharon braves online dating.

Book Club is rather inconsequential but it’s fun and it captures something of why the 50 Shades series was such a big success, despite the problematic bits. But ultimately it doesn’t have any big insights.

The film poster showing  DIane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda and Mary Steenburgen around a table.
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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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