Doch Rybaka [Tzarevna Scaling] (2020)

Doch Rybaka [literally: Fisherman’s Daughter]
Director: Uldus Bakhtiozina
Writer: Uldus Bakhtiozina
Cast: Alina Korol, Viktoria Assovskaya, Valentina Yasen, Aleksandra Kysotskaya, Albina Berens, Serafima Solovyova, Xenia Popova-Pendereckaya, Uldus Bakhtiozina, Adelia Severinova, Mária Pavlová
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 27.9.2021
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Plot:
Polina’s (Alina Korol) life is far from fancy. She lives in a tiny apartment and works as a fishmonger in a small truck. One day, a strange woman comes to her truck to buy fish heads for her cats. She gives Polina a special tea that is supposed to make her dreams come true. Poline gives it a try and ends up in a strange, but rigorous testing program to see if she is a princess, a tsar’s daughter.

I adored Tzarevna Scaling. If there is one thing I didn’t like it’s that it’s only 70 minutes long – I really wanted to spend more time in this world. It’s a visually stunning take on fairy tales that will stay with me for a long time.

The film poster showing two women wearing elaborate swan hats sitting at a table next to a swimming pool where they armwrestle.
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Jakob’s Wife (2021)

Jakob’s Wife
Director: Travis Stevens
Writer: Mark Steensland, Kathy Charles, Travis Stevens
Cast: Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Nyisha Bell, Sarah Lind, Mark Kelly, Robert Rusler, Jay DeVon Johnson, C.M. Punk
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2021
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Plot:
Anne (Barbara Crampton) has always been the good wife to Minister Jakob (Larry Fessenden). Over the years, she has shrunk herself more and more to fit into the role better and better. When her first love Tom (Robert Rusler) comes back to town and they meet, Anne feels first stirrings of her hunger for life again. But it isn’t until she and Tom are attacked, that her hunger turns very real – and very bloody.

Jakob’s Wife starts well enough, but loses steam right when it should be picking it up, leaving a lackluster feeling behind.

The film poster showing Jakob (Larry Fessenden) reading in a bible and Anne (Barbara Crampton) praying next to him in a startling red dress. Behind them is a chruch, and in the sky we can see a half-transparent face of a vampire.
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Titane [Titanium] (2021)

Titane
Director: Julia Ducournau
Writer: Julia Ducournau, Jacques Akchoti, Jean-Christophe Bouzy
Cast: Agathe Rousselle, Vincent Lindon, Garance Marillier, Laïs Salameh, Mara Cisse, Marin Judas, Diong-Kéba Tacu, Myriem Akheddiou, Bertrand Bonello
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 23.9.2021
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Content Note: sexualized violence

Plot:
Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) is a dancer, working at car shows and the like. She is tough, tattooed and shows off a big scar she has on her skull from a car accident. Her roughness is not just exterior. When she is assaulted by a fan, she doesn’t hesitate to stab him. But when her colleague Justine (Garance Marillier) also tries to get closer to her, Alexia has the same reaction though. And it’s neither her first, nor her last killing – and she desperately needs an exit strategy. That presents itself in an unusual option.

Titane is not an easy film, and I had to sleep over it to really get to an opinion about it – but ultimately, I really liked it. It is a wild, refractory, aesthetic film that is certainly worth watching and then discussing a lot.

The film poster showing Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) pushing back her hair to reveal a large, snail-shaped scar behind her ear.
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Malignant (2021)

Malignant
Director: James Wan
Writer: Akela Cooper, James Wan, Ingrid Bisu
Cast: Annabelle Wallis, Maddie Hasson, George Young, Michole Briana White, Ingrid Bisu, Jean Louisa Kelly, Susanna Thompson, Jake Abel, Jacqueline McKenzie, Christian Clemenson, Amir AboulEla, Zoë Bell
Seen on: 13.9.2021

Content Note: domestic violence, miscarriage

Plot:
Maddie (Annabelle Wallis) and her boyfriend Derek (Jake Abel) are expecting a baby, but things aren’t great between them, to say the least. After he gets aggressive with her again and slams her into a wall, a dark figure shows up in their home and kills Derek. Maddie is hurt herself and loses her baby. Deep in shock, she is unable to answer her sister Sydney’s (Maddie Hasson) or police detective Shaw’s (George Young) questions. When Maddie finally gets home from the hospital, she wants to start fresh. Instead she is haunted by nightmarish visions – that turn out to be of real murders. If Maddie doesn’t figure out what is going on soon, more people will die.

Malignant is expertly set in scene – as you’d expect from a Wan horror movie. But I was not sold on the story that meanders somewhere between psychological character study and B-movie shlock. Both can be good, but the combination here does both a disservice.

THe film poster showing the drawing of a woman in profile lying on her back. A shadow is over her face that looks like a face and a bloody knife is above them.
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Sul più bello [Out of My League] (2020)

Sul più bello
Director: Alice Filippi
Writer: Roberto Proia, Michela Straniero
Cast: Ludovica Francesconi, Giuseppe Maggio, Gaja Masciale, Jozef Gjura, Eleonora Gaggero
Seen on: 12.9.2021

Content Note: stalking, ableism

Plot:
Marta (Ludovica Francesconi) has always had one dream: getting married to the love of her life. Unfortunately she does not have the best cards in life. Orphaned at a young age, not the prettiest and chronically ill (Mucoviscidosis) with the outlook of dying early, finding a partner has been difficult for her. Until she sees Arturo (Giuseppe Maggio) and knows that he is the one for her. Only, he doesn’t know it – yet.

Sul più bello looked like a sweet RomCom without too much substance. And that is not entirely wrong, but it has so little substance, and a couple of issues, that it doesn’t satisfy.

The film poster showing Arturo (Giuseppe Maggio) holding Marta (Ludovica Francesconi).
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Buster’s Mal Heart (2016)

Buster’s Mal Heart
Director: Sarah Adina Smith
Writer: Sarah Adina Smith
Cast: Rami Malek, DJ Qualls, Kate Lyn Sheil, Sukha Belle Potter, Toby Huss, Lin Shaye, Lily Gladstone
Seen on: 9.9.2021

Plot:
Buster (Rami Malek) has made a name for himself by taking over summer holiday homes during winter. He’s been at it for years and has managed to evade capture so far. But it wasn’t always like this. Before that, he used to be Jonah. Jonah worked as a night receptionist in a hotel, trying to care for his wife Marty (Kate Lyn Sheil) and daughter Roxy (Sukha Belle Potter). But the constant night-shifts and the lack of sleep were starting to get to him. To get through the dreary nights, he starts talking to a guest who simply refers to himself as The Last Free Man (DJ Qualls) and believes that The Inversion is coming.

I saw Sarah Adina Smith’s first film The Midnight Swim many years ago, but it’s really one of those films that absolutely stayed with me. So, when I realized that her second film – Buster’s Mal Heart – was available on Netflix, I had to watch it immediately. And while it wasn’t quite as captivating as The Midnight Swim for me, it was absolutely captivating enough.

The film poster showing Buster (Rami Malek), his face distorted as if caught on a crappy videotape.
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Good on Paper (2021)

Good on Paper
Director: Kimmy Gatewood
Writer: Iliza Shlesinger
Cast: Iliza Shlesinger, Margaret Cho, Ryan Hansen, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Matt McGorry, Rebecca Delgado Smith, Beth Dover, Kimia Behpoornia
Seen on: 4.9.2021

Content Note: fatmisia, abusive relationship, (critical treatment of) misogyny

Plot:
Andrea (Iliza Shlesinger) is a stand-up comedian who has been making good progress with her career, although the big break-through is still missing and she would like to get an acting role to hit it big, finally. With working on her career, her romantic life has taken a back-seat. And this doesn’t change when she meets Dennis (Ryan Hansen) on a plane, although they immediately get to talking. Dennis is a great guy, though, and they start hanging out a lot – as friends. After a while, though, things do take a turn for the romantic. At the same time, Andrea starts to question what Dennis told her about himself.

Good on Paper has some funny moments, but it didn’t really draw me in. It was entertaining enough, but it just wasn’t great.

The film poster showing Andrea (Iliza Shlesinger) looking sceptical as Dennis (Ryan Hansen) holds on to her, smiling widely.
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Une colonie [A Colony] (2018)

Une colonie
Director: Geneviève Dulude-De Celles
Writer: Valérie Beaugrand-Champagne, Geneviève Dulude-De Celles
Cast: Emilie Bierre, Jacob Whiteduck-Lavoie, Irlande Côté, Cassandra Gosselin-Pelletier, Leia Scott
Seen on: 31.8.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Mylia (Emilie Bierre) is a quiet teenager, spending most of her time with her sister Camille (Irlande Côté) and her chaotic family. Starting a new school means that Mylia has to figure out where she belongs – with popular Jacinthe (Cassandra Gosselin-Pelletier) or with Jimmy (Jacob Whiteduck-Lavoie) who is Abenaki, which makes him an outsider in his own community.

Une colonie is a nice coming-of-age film though I was hoping for a little more engagement with racism from the title and the fact that Jimmy is Indigenous. Still, I really liked it.

The film poster showing a close-up of Mylia (Emilie Bierre) looking into the distance.
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Reminiscence (2021)

Reminiscence
Director: Lisa Joy
Writer: Lisa Joy
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis, Marina de Tavira, Daniel Wu, Mojean Aria, Brett Cullen, Natalie Martinez, Angela Sarafyan
Seen on: 31.8.2021

Plot:
In a Miami almost entirely drowned Nick (Hugh Jackman) and his employee Watts (Thandiwe Newton) run a small reminiscence business. Their clients come to relive their memories in the most realistic way possible with them. Everything changes for Nick the day that Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) comes in, hoping to find her lost keys. Nick and Mae become very close – until Mae disappears, leaving Nick scrambling to understand what happened with her, with them. Unable to let go, he digs into her past and uncovers more than he bargained for.

I had not realized going into the film that it was a noir set in the future. If I had, I may have liked it a little better, but fact is, I usually don’t like noirs and Reminiscence reminded me again why that is.

The film poster showing Nick (Hugh Jackman) standing with a gun in his hand, pointed at the floor. Behind him is a half-submerged street with boats and the other main characters are superimposed over the setting orange sun.
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Hemel (2012)

Hemel
Director: Sacha Polak
Writer: Helena van der Meulen
Cast: Hannah Hoekstra, Hans Dagelet, Rifka Lodeizen, Mark Rietman, Eva Duijvestein, Barbara Sarafian
Seen on: 29.8.2021

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Hemel (Hannha Hoekstra) is young and beautiful and drifts from man to man, hook-up to hook-up. Never anything serious. The only man she has emotional space for in her life is her father Gijs (Hans Dagelet) who has never settled down himself – until now. Gijs seems to have finally found a partner in Sophie (Rifka Lodeizen) with whom he is willing to get serious – and that completely throws Hemel.

Hemel is yet another film about a beautiful, young and fucked up woman who struggles with relationships with men in her life. I have to admit that I expected a little more from it – a little more insight, a little more feminism – but it couldn’t deliver.

The film poster showing Hemel (Hannah Hoekstra) making out with a guy while wrapped in a string of lights.
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