Freaks Out (2021)

Freaks Out
Director: Gabriele Mainetti
Writer: Nicola Guaglianone, Gabriele Mainetti
Cast: Claudio Santamaria, Aurora Giovinazzo, Pietro Castellitto, Giancarlo Martini, Giorgio Tirabassi, Max Mazzotta, Franz Rogowski
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 7.5.2022

Content Note: sexual assault, sexism, (critical treatment of) ableism, medical experiments

Plot:
1943 in Italy. Israel (Giorgio Tirabassi) runs a circus with his four artists Cencio (Pietro Castellitto), Matilde (Aurora Giovinazzo), Fulvio (Claudio Santamaria) and Mario (Giancarlo Martini) – who actually all have supernatural powers that fuel their performances. The five try their best to stay out of the Nazis’ way, though there is the Circus Berlin stationed in Rome – supposedly the best circus in the world, headed by Franz (Franz Rogowski), a pianist with 12 fingers. Franz has superpowers of his own: he has seen the future and knows that it doesn’t look good for the Nazis. He is convinced that he has to find four superpowered people to prevent the Nazis from losing and he will do anything to find them.

I enjoyed Freaks Out for the most part. It is marred by the male gaze, but it’s entertaining and manages to combine comedy and Nazi horrors in a good way.

The film poster showing the four "freaks" in their performance poses, as well as Franz (Franz Rogowski) wearing a Nazi robe.
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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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Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)

Everything Everywhere All at Once
Director: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Writer: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Cast: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tallie Medel, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr.
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 5.5.2022

Plot:
Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) and her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan) run a laundromat together, a business that has made it possible for them to raise their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) but that hasn’t been going that well and that is currently being audited by IRS. A fact that Evelyn’s father Gong Gong (James Hong) isn’t allowed to know. But Evelyn and Waymond have to take him with them to the appointment with their auditor Deirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis). On the way there, Waymond starts behaving strangely though, giving weird instructions to Evelyn and finally telling her that he is from a parallel universe and the multiverse needs Evelyn to save it. Evelyn would rather not, but there is no escaping Jobu Tupaki.

I had extremely high expectations for this film. Not just because everything about it looked great, but also because I loved Swiss Army Man so very much. That, of course, also made me worried, because we all know how hard sophomore works have it when the first one is simply magical. In any case, I need not have worried. Everything Everywhere All at Once is an absolute delight.

The very colorful filmposter showing drawings of characters, various symbols and a whole lot of googly eyes arranged in a psychedelic circle.
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The Northman (2022)

The Northman
Director: Robert Eggers
Writer: Sjón, Robert Eggers
Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Claes Bang, Ethan Hawke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Gustav Lindh, Elliott Rose, Willem Dafoe, Björk
Seen on: 26.4.2022

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) only barely escaped with his life when his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang) murdered his brother, Amleth’s father, King Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke) and took over the kingdom. Amleth, only a boy then, had to leave his mother Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) behind, but swore to save her and take his revenge. Now he is grown up and makes his living as a viking. During a raid, he hears news from his uncle and, pretending to be a slave like Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy) and many others, lets himself be carted off to finally fulfill the promise he gave as a boy.

I was hoping for The Northman to be a bit of a bloodfest, knowing that with Eggers, I’d probably get a bit of a challenge as well. But unfortunately, mostly what I got with The Northman is darkness – and I mean that quite literally. It’s a film we barely see and that was pretty boring to boot.

The film poster showing Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) standing on a cliff, watching a fleet in the sea.
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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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Uncharted (2022)

Uncharted
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writer: Rafe Judkins, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Based on: the video games
Cast: Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Steven Waddington, Pingi Moli, Tiernan Jones, Rudy Pankow, Pilou Asbæk
Seen on: 15.3.2022

Plot:
Nate (Tom Holland) makes a living as a bartender, occasionally supplementing his income with some well-chosen pickpocketing. After one such moment, he is approached by Sully (Mark Wahlberg) who invites him on a heist. The plan is to steal a priceless historic artefact that could lead to an actual treasure. Nate declines at first, but when he hears that his estranged brother Sam (Rudy Pankow) who he hasn’t seen in years, used to work with Sully, he is ready to go, hoping to take up a trail that will lead him to his brother. But can two thiefs and con artists like Sully and Nate ever trust each other?

Uncharted is fun for the most part, but in an ultimately a little tired way (and I’m not just saying that because I fell asleep for a bit during the action showdown). It has its moments, but it feels a little too empty.

The film poster showing a large headshot of Nate (Tom Holland) with smaller images of other important characters below him. Behind him is a compass and there are also people in boats.
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Moonfall (2022)

Moonfall
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer: Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser, Spenser Cohen
Cast: Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Charlie Plummer, Michael Peña, Carolina Bartczak, Chris Sandiford, Jonathan Maxwell Silver, Eme Ikwuakor, Donald Sutherland
Seen on: 14.2.2022

Plot:
A few years ago, Brian (Patrick Wilson) and Jo (Halle Berry) were a team – in space, no less. But after a terrible accident after which Brian claims to have seen something inexplicable, unbelievable, he was discredited, while she went on to rise in the ranks at NASA. Now something is wrong with the moon though, and megastructuralist KC Houseman (John Bradley) who is convinced that the moon is a built mega structure is the first to figure it out: the moon is off its orbit. And it will collide with the earth if it isn’t stopped. But nobody wants to listen to KC, not NASA and not even Brian who KC tries to get to help. Who will be able to save the world?

Moonfall is one hell of a film. It is so completely out there, it’s basically its own megastructure orbiting the earth. And that makes it a whole lot of fun – at least as long as you don’t take it seriously for even a second.

The film poster showing a giant moon next to a small earth. There is a hole in the moon that hints at a built structure.
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Red Notice (2021)

Red Notice
Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Writer: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Gal Gadot, Ritu Arya, Chris Diamantopoulos, Ivan Mbakop
Seen on: 4.1.2022

Plot:
John Hartley (Dwayne Johnson) is an FBI profiler, working together with Interpol, specifically Inspector Das (Rity Arya) to finally catch renowned art thief Nolan Booth (Ryan Reynolds). Operating off a tip from the mysterious Bishop (Gal Gadot), herself an art thief, things go sideways for Hartley after he catches Booth: it looks like The Bishop set him up, too – and Hartley ends up not only in the same prison as Booth, but also in the same cell. Despite their antagonistic relationship, Hartley and Booth agree to work together to get The Bishop. But that’s easier said than done.

Red Notice is a heist movie with an Indiana Jones touch and a nice cast – so I really don’t understand why it is so very lukewarm.

The film poster showing Hartley (Dwayne Johnson), The Bishop (Gal Gadot) and Booth (Ryan Reynolds) in evening wear.
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Encanto (2021)

Encanto
Director: Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Charise Castro Smith
Writer: Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush, Lin-Manuel Miranda (songs)
Cast: Stephanie Beatriz, María Cecilia Botero, John Leguizamo, Mauro Castillo, Jessica Darrow, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, Wilmer Valderrama, Rhenzy Feliz, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Adassa, Maluma
Seen on: 3.1.2022

Plot:
Many years ago, Abuela (María Cecilia Botero) had to flee her home together with her husband and her three children. On their flight, her husband didn’t make it, but Abuela got a gift, a miracle that gave her and her family magic powers and a safe haven in a magical house. Now the Mardrigal family uses their gifts to keep the village going. Everybody in the family got a different gift. Everybody but Mirabel (Stephanie Beatriz) that is. Now it is Mirabel’s little cousin Antonio’s (Ravi Cabot-Conyers) turn, and there is a certain tension in the air. What if Antonio doesn’t get a gift either? But even after Antonio is successful, there is something wrong – and Mirabel is determined to fix everything.

Encanto is sweet, touching and fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it, its colorful world-building and characters.

The film poster showing a house wrapped in flowers and the Mardigal family in its courtyard, with Mirabel at the front.
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Re-Watch: Inkheart (2008)

Inkheart
Director: Iain Softley
Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire
Based on: Cornelia Funke’s novel
Cast: Eliza Bennett, Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Sienna Guillory, Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren, Rafi Gavron, Andy Serkis, Jennifer Connelly
Seen on: 1.1.2022
[Here’s my first review of the film.]
[Here are my reviews of the entire trilogy this is based on.]

Content Note: racism

Plot:
Meggie (Eliza Bennett) and her bookbinder father Mo (Brendan Fraser) have always lived rather withdrawn lives surrounded by books, traveling around where Mo’s work is needed. This gives Mo a chance to look for a rare book. Just when he finds a copy, Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) shows up. It’s clear that he is actually an old acquaintance of Mo’s. He warns of Capricorn (Andy Serkis) and his men who are coming for Mo. Meggie and Mo immediately head towards her greataunt Elinor (Helen Mirren). But Dustfinger is right behind them as he desperately needs something from Mo: his ability to read things out of books. It’s that ability that Capricorn is looking for, too and that puts all of them in danger.

Now that I finally finished (re-)reading the trilogy, I wanted to watch the film again, too. It is still a sweet adventure film that captures the essence of the book very nicely, albeit overshooting the goal a little.

The film poster showing Mo (Brendan Fraser) reading from a book. A golden glitterwave curls up from the book, and in it are a unicorn and the other main characters.
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