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

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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Holidate (2020)

Director: John Whitesell
Writer: Tiffany Paulsen
Cast: Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, Kristin Chenoweth, Frances Fisher, Andrew Bachelor, Jessica Capshaw, Manish Dayal, Alex Moffat, Cynthy Wu, Jake Manley, Julien Marlon Samani, Nicola Peltz
Seen on: 2.1.2022

After a brutal break-up, Sloane (Emma Roberts) is alone for Christmas, a fact that her family will never let her forget, trying to set her up anyway they can. When Sloane’s more free-spirited aunt Susan (Kristin Chenoweth) suggest that she should just get herself a holidate, a guy to keep her company during the holiday parties, to escape the hassle, Sloane is hesitant at first. But then she meets Jackson (Luke Bracey) who is equally fed up with dating around the holidays. They agree to try holidating for New Year’s, and since it works out rather well, they agree to continue until they have something better. But maybe there is nothing better for them than each other.

Holidate is a cute film with a few good moments, but both Sloane and Jackson remained a little too bland to make the film really memorable.

The film poster showing Sloane (Emma Roberts) and Jackson (Luke Bracey) with uncertain faical expressions standing next to a Christmas tree.
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Metropolitan (1990)

Director: Whit Stillman
Writer: Whit Stillman
Cast: Carolyn Farina, Edward Clements, Chris Eigeman, Taylor Nichols, Allison Parisi, Dylan Hundley, Isabel Gillies, Bryan Leder, Will Kempe, Ellia Thompson
Seen on: 31.12.2021

It is just before Christmas and the young people of the upper class are in a party mood. On one of their outings, charismatic Nick (Chris Eigeman) just sweeps along Tom (Edward Clements) when he believes that they called for the same cab. Tom used to run in the same circles, but after his parents divorced, he doesn’t have the ressources anymore. Instead he turned to socialist politics. But surrounded by the riches, and learning that the group knows his ex-girlfriend Serena (Ellia Thompson), Tom is enticed to stay. Meanwhile, the group – above all Audrey (Carolyn Farina) – are quite affected by his presence.

Metropolitan is a witty film that takes a look at a very specific class that has been almost mythologized, and shows us that they are still only teenagers. There is room for criticism of that class, but it does take a backseat to the characters.

The film poster showing a drawing of five people in formal wear, three young women in white dresses and two young men in smokings.
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Alice Júnior (2019)

Alice Júnior
Director: Gil Baroni
Writer: Luiz Bertazzo, Adriel Nizer Silva
Cast: Anna Celestino Mota, Emmanuel Rosset, Thaís Schier, Surya Amitrano, Matheus Moura, Katia Horn, Igor Augustho, Marcel Szymanski, Cida Rolim
Seen on: 2.12.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) transmisia

Alice Júnior (Anna Celestino Mota) was the first trans participant in Brazil’s Teenage Top Model and has built quite a social media following from there. She is well-accepted in her school and she hopes to finally get her first kiss soon. That’s when her father Jean Genet (Emmanuel Rosset) announces that he got a new job and that they’d have to move to the middle of nowhere. Alice Júnior is horrified at the idea of leaving her life behind, but she doesn’t have much of a choice. Settling into a new place is hard enough as is, but harder still when you unwillingly leave a good place and land in a school where transmisia is still alive and well. Fortunately, though, Alice Júnior is not easily discouraged, and there are some nice people in the new place as well.

Alice Júnior is a fun, sweet film with an engaging heroine. It is also a take on being a trans teenager that is different from the (few) stories we usually get to see about this topic. I really enjoyed it.

The film poster showing a pink and blue headshot of Alice Júnior (Anna Celestino Mota).
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Little Boxes (2016)

Little Boxes
Director: Rob Meyer
Writer: Annie J. Howell
Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Nelsan Ellis, Armani Jackson, Oona Laurence, Janeane Garofalo, Christine Taylor, Miranda McKeon, Maliq Johnson, Nadia Dajani, Veanne Cox
Seen on: 22.11.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Mack (Nelsan Ellis), Nina (Melanie Lynskey) and their son Clark (Armani Jackson) are leaving New York City to move to a small town in Washington where Nina got a job as an art professor. Adjusting to their new situation isn’t easy, though. Nina struggles to learn the social rules at her college. Mack finds himself struggling to focus on his own work as a writer in the new environment. And Clark has to face being pretty much the only Black kid in town – as if being a teenage boy wasn’t complicated enough already. To make matters worse, the moving company is late and all of their stuff is missing. Maybe moving wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Little Boxes is a sweet film that lives off its vivid characters, and their understandable problems with the move. Do not watch it if you have to move yourself in the next few weeks, because you probably won’t want to do it anymore afterwards.

The film poster showing Mack (Nelsan Ellis), Clark (Armani Jackson) and Nina (Melanie Lynskey) sitting on a couch in front of their house, all looking in a different direction.
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Night Teeth (2021)

Night Teeth
Director: Adam Randall
Writer: Brent Dillon
Cast: Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Debby Ryan, Lucy Fry, Raúl Castillo, Alfie Allen, Marlene Forte, Ash Santos, Nandy Martin, Jaren Mitchell, Megan Fox, Alexander Ludwig
Seen on: 20.11.2021

Benny (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) is in college where he isn’t exactly popular. At home, too, he kind of falls behind his older brother Jay (Raúl Castillo) who runs a limousine service. What Benny doesn’t know is that Jay also doubles as a vampire hunter, although there has been a truce with the vampires for a while. When Benny gets the opportunity to help Jay out and be a driver for a night, he thinks at first that he won the lottery when Zoe (Lucy Fry) and Blaire (Debby Ryan) get in the car. But he soon finds himself deeply entangled in their vampire business for the night. And who knows if he will get out of it alive.

Night Teeth is okay. It’s pretty much your standard fare of vampire politics with a dash of male wish fulfillment. It profits from Lendeborg Jr.’s and Ryan’s charm, but ultimately it doesn’t surpass fine.

The film poster in black, white and red, showing Zoe's (Lucy Fry) and Blaire's (Debby Ryan) bloodied fangs. Below those, Benny (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) is standing in front of a car and the city skyline.
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Kaviar [Caviar] (2019)

Director: Elena Tikhonova
Writer: Robert Buchschwenter, Elena Tikhonova
Cast: Margarita Breitkreiz, Darya Nosik, Sabrina Reiter, Georg Friedrich, Simon Schwarz, Mikhail Evlanov, Joseph Lorenz, Robert Finster
Seen on: 20.10.2021 (somehow missed to review this one)

Nadja (Margarita Breitkreiz) works as the personal translator and all around organizer for Igor (Mikhail Evlanov), giving her in-depth knowledge of his dealings, little of which is actually legal. Nadja doesn’t really like it, but she has two kids and not that many options. When Igor hatches a new plan though – buying the Schwedenbrücke in Vienna (a bridge in the city center) to build an estate on – this is easier said than done, even in Vienna where people are willing to be very flexible for profit. Enter Klaus (Georg Friedrich), the husband of Nadja’s best friend Vera (Darya Nosik). Klaus has been waiting for an opportunity to make a deal or two with Igor and is sure that he can provide the necessary connections. The money that needs to change hands does give Nadja, Vera and Nadja’s nanny Teresa (Sabrina Reiter) an idea, though. Maybe this time it is them who get to be rich.

Kaviar is an entertaining film that makes fun of both Russian and (and even more so) Austrian business men. With its feminist undertones and its perfect political timing, it’s certainly a film to see.

The film poster showing Nadja (Margarita Breitkreiz) biting her lip, with Vera (Darya Nosik) and Teresa (Sabrina Reiter) behind her. Below them are Ferdinand (Simon Schwarz), Igor (Mikhail Evlanov) and Klaus (Georg Friedrich) toasting with champagne and a suitcase full of cash.
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The Starling (2021)

The Starling
Director: Theodore Melfi
Writer: Matt Harris
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Chris O’Dowd, Kevin Kline, Timothy Olyphant, Daveed Diggs, Skyler Gisondo, Laura Harrier
Seen on: 5.11.2021

Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) and Jack (Chris O’Dowd) used to be very happy, but they aren’t anymore. Jack is in a psychiatric hospital, and Lilly is barely holding it together at work and at home. When a starling takes up residence in her garden and starts attacking her to defend its nest, Lilly can’t handle this at all. But her rage at the bird also sets things in motion again for her, and maybe even for Jack.

The Starling is sweet, touching and even funny, despite the very heavy topic it takes on. But it does so with a constant sense of hope, even at the worst time, and it’s just really beautiful to watch.

The film poster showing Lilly (Melissa McCarthy) lying on a lounge chair outside in the garden, a starling sitting on her shoulder.
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Ali & Ava (2021)

Ali & Ava
Director: Clio Barnard
Writer: Clio Barnard
Cast: Adeel Akhtar, Claire Rushbrook, Ellora Torchia, Shaun Thomas, Natalie Gavin, Mona Goodwin, Krupa Pattani, Vinny Dhillon, Tasha Connor
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 31.10.2021

Content Note: mention of domestic violence, racism

Ava (Claire Rushbrook) is a classroom assistant. Her own children are more or less grown up, though her son Callum (Shaun Thomas) still partly lives with her together with his girlfriend and their baby. Meanwhile Ali (Adeel Akhtar) is a property manager and a fixture of his community, repairing stuff and helping out whereever he can, although his private life is in shambles. His wife Runa (Ellora Torchia) broke up with him, but still lives with him and he doesn’t want his family to know that they’re separated. When Ali picks up the child of one of his tenants from school, he meets Ava – and the two connect instantly. But what are they and their families supposed to think about this connection?

Ali & Ava is a cute, emotional and wonderfully energetic film that gives us two characters as rarely seen on film as they are easily rooted for. It left me smiling from ear to ear.

The film poster showing Ali (Adeel Akhtar) and Ava (Claire Rushbrook) smiling at each other.
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Kelti [Celts] (2021)

Director: Milica Tomovic
Writer: Tanja Sljivar, Milica Tomovic
Cast: Dubravka Kovjanic, Stefan Trifunovic, Katarina Dimic, Anja Djordjevic, Olga Odanovic, Konstantin Ilin, Milica Grujicic, Slaven Doslo, Nikola Rakocevic, Nada Sargin, Jovana Gavrilovic, Jelena Djokic, Jovan Belobrkovic, Atanasije Stogren
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 28.10.2021

It’s 1993 in Belgrade. Inflation is high, ressources are scarce. Nevertheless, Marijana (Dubravka Kovjanic) is putting together a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle themed birthday party for her youngest daughter Minja (Katarina Dimic), from home-made Raphael costume to sandwiches that have to make do with margarine because butter is simply too expensive. As the house fills with children and adults coming to party, the tensions between Marijana and her husband (Stefan Trifunovic) become ever more visible though.

Kelti is an amazingly enjoyable film. It’s funny, evocative of the time period it takes place in and has great characters. It was a favorite of this year’s Viennale for me.

The film poster showing a group of women in party mode, holding cigarettes and smiling.
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