We Go Way Back (2006)

We Go Way Back
Director: Lynn Shelton
Writer: Lynn Shelton
Cast: Maggie Brown, Amber Hubert, Lynn Shelton, Robert Hamilton Wright, Aaron Blakely, Alycia Delmore, Matthew M. Bianchi, Basil Harris
Seen on: 10.4.2021

Plot:
Kate (Amber Hubert) is an actress, hoping to finally get her break, but so far mostly just running errands for her theater. On her 23rd birthday, she opens a letter that she wrote to herself when she was 13 (Maggie Brown). The hopeful words of the letter stand in stark contrast to the feeling of being stuck that Kate has at the moment. Even when the theater director (Robert Hamilton Wright) finally offers Kate a leading role, it doesn’t feel quite as satisfying as Kate had hoped. And so her 13-year-old self keeps haunting her.

We Go Way Back is a captivating mix of sad and funny that gives us a thoughtful portrayal of an unhappy young woman without descending completely into doom and gloom. I really enjoyed it.

The film poster showing Kate-at-23 (Amber Hubert) and Kate-at-13 (Maggie Brown).
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Vampires vs. the Bronx (2020)

Vampires vs. the Bronx
Director: Oz Rodriguez
Writer: Oz Rodriguez, Blaise Hemingway
Cast: Jaden Michael, Gerald Jones III, Gregory Diaz IV, Sarah Gadon, Method Man, Shea Whigham, Coco Jones, The Kid Mero, Zoe Saldana
Seen on: 9.4.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Miguel (Jaden Michael) loves the Bronx. So he tries to organize a fundraising event for the local bodega run by Tony (The Kid Mero) that is close to shutting down. It’s not just a bodega, it’s also a safe space for Miguel and his best friends Luis (Gregory Diaz IV) and Bobby (Gerald Jones III). Part of the bodega’s problems is the gentrification that is slowly but surely reaching the Bronx, pushed forward by Murnau Real Estate. But Miguel soon realizes that there is more to the company – they aren’t just there for the profit, they actually are vampires. So Miguel gathers Luis and Bobby to fight for the Bronx.

Vampires vs. the Bronx is sweet and fun, but it stumbles a little over its own political metaphors and a little too conventional narrative structure. Still, it is a very entertaining romp.

The film poster showing the four main kids as stylized images. Miguel (Jaden Michael) is at the top, clutching a cross and screaming.
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Ham on Rye (2019)

Ham on Rye
Director: Tyler Taormina
Writer: Tyler Taormina, Eric Berger
Cast: Haley Bodell, Audrey Boos, Gabriella Herrera, Adam Torres, Luke Darga, Sam Hernandez, Blake Borders, Cole Devine, Timothy Taylor, Gregory Falatek
Seen on: 6.4.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) ableism

Plot:
Haley (Haley Bodell), Gwen (Audrey Boos) and Trish (Gabriella Herrera) are preparing for a ritual in the town’s diner. They, and every other kid their age, are donning the clothes of their grandparents and walk to the diner. Something big is going to happen, something that will change the course of their lives forever. At least, if they are chosen.

Ham on Rye builds on an interesting idea, but lacks a bit of focus and narrative clarity. Still, it’s definitely unusual.

The film poster showing 11 the fists of 11 teens, holding their thumbs in up or down positions.
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Dead Pigs (2018)

Dead Pigs
Director: Cathy Yan
Writer: Cathy Yan
Cast: Vivian Wu, Haoyu Yang, Mason Lee, Meng Li, David Rysdahl, Zazie Beetz
Seen on: 4.4.2021

Plot:
Candy Wang (Vivian Wu) runs a hairsalon and owns the last house in the neighborhood she grew up in. Everything else was torn down to make way for a large building project helmed by architect Sean Landry (David Rysdahl). Candy’s brother Old Wang (Haoyu Yang) is a pig farmer in constant money trouble. Now more so than ever, because his pigs have mysteriously died, just like most of the pigs in the area. Those dead pigs start floating down Shanghai river because nobody knows what else to do with them. Meanwhile Wang’s son Wang Zhen (Mason Lee) works in the city as a busboy, hoping to make a better life for himself and maybe catch the attention of his rich customer Xia Xia (Meng Li).

Dead Pigs rolls a lot of criticism into a protective layer of jokes that make its critical stance look surprisingly light, but not necessarily soft. It’s a bittersweet, very engaging film.

The film poster showing two piggy banks, one shattered with very little money inside.
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Re-Watch: Never Been Kissed (1999)

Never Been Kissed
Director: Raja Gosnell
Writer: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Cast: Drew Barrymore, David Arquette, Michael Vartan, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Garry Marshall, Sean Whalen, Cress Williams, Octavia Spencer, Leelee Sobieski, Jeremy Jordan, Jessica Alba, Marley Shelton, Jordan Ladd, Katie Lansdale, Branden Williams, James Franco
Seen on: 1.4.2021

Plot:
Josie (Drew Barrymore) is a copyeditor at the Sun-Times, but she would like to be a reporter. Her chance comes quite surprisingly when her unpredictable boss (Garry Marshall) tells her to go undercover at a high school to figure out what kids these days are up to. Josie is so excited about the opportunity, she doesn’t remember that she was bullied in high school. But once she is back, all her old memories flood back again. Maybe this time, though, Josie has a chance to do better.

It has been many years that I watched Never Been Kissed, but I remembered it very fondly. I’m happy to report that it is still an utterly charming film with a cute love story.

The film poster showing Josie (Drew Barrymore) sitting on the floor, one of her knees pulled to her chest.
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Sun Dogs (2017)


Sun Dogs
Director: Jennifer Morrison
Writer: Raoul McFarland
Cast: Michael Angarano, Melissa Benoist, Allison Janney, Ed O’Neill, Eric Christian Olsen, J.R. Ramirez, Alexander Wraith, Xzibit, Jennifer Morrison
Seen on: 21.3.2021

Content Note: ableism, suicide

Plot:
Ned (Michael Angarano) has one goal, and one goal only: he wants to join the Marines to fight against the terrorists who caused 9/11. He has been trying every year for three years since 2001, not realizing that he will never make it because of his disability. When he makes yet another attempt, the recruiter Master Sgt. Jenkins (Xzibit) tries to let him down easy by sending Ned on a mission at home, not anticipating that Ned takes this mission absolutely seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he even convices Tally (Melissa Benoist), a rather lost, young woman, that the mission is very real and that she can help.

Sun Dogs is sweet and warm, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it, I have to admit. Despite that, I’d say that the good outweighs the bad here.

The film poster showing the film's main characters. Front and center Ned (Michael Angarano), saluting while clutching a mascot head.
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Gruber geht [Gruber Is Leaving] (2015)

Gruber geht
Director: Marie Kreutzer
Writer: Marie Kreutzer
Based on: Doris Knecht’s novel
Cast: Manuel Rubey, Bernadette Heerwagen, Doris Schretzmayer, Ulrike Beimpold, Fabian Krüger, Pia Hierzegger
Seen on: 16.3.2021

Content Note: homomisia

Plot:
John Gruber (Manuel Rubey) loves the expensive things in life, and little else. His sister Kathi (Doris Schretzmayer) who moved to the country with her family certainly doesn’t get much more from him than contempt. Just as Gruber has trouble with a big account in his firm and fears that he might have cancer, he meets DJ Sarah (Bernadette Heerwagen). Sarah happens to be there when Gruber gets the confirmation of his cancer diagnosis, turning their fling into something more. Both Sarah and his illness make him reconsider the priorities in his life – but that is not an easy process.

Writing this review feels a bit like saying goodbye after a lackluster first date. There just was no spark between the film and me. Sometimes these things just don’t work out. We had a nice time, but there won’t be a second date. In short, Gruber geht is a good film that I just didn’t find very interesting.

The film poster showing Gruber (Manuel Rubey) in bed with Sarah (Bernadette Heerwagen). She is handing him a cigarette.
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Die Deutschmeister [A March for the Emperor] (1955)

Die Deutschmeister
Director: Ernst Marischka
Writer: Ernst Marischka
Remake of: Frühjahrsparade (to which Marischka also wrote the script)
Cast: Romy Schneider, Magda Schneider, Siegfried Breuer Jr., Josef Meinrad, Gretl Schörg, Susi Nicoletti, Adrienne Gessner, Hans Moser, Paul Hörbiger, Gunther Philipp, Wolfgang Lukschy, Fritz Imhoff
Seen on: 14.3.2021

Plot:
After having her fortune told by a parrot, Stanzi (Romy Schneider) knows that she has to come to Vienna to visit her aunt Therese (Magda Schneider) who runs a bakery there. Right when she arrives, Stanzi gets caught up in a ball where she utterly confuses Baron Zorndorf (Gunther Philipp) who thinks her a countess. But the Baron is quickly forgotten when Stanzi meets the young drummer Willy (Siegfried Breuer Jr.) whose head is filled with music. When Stanzi sees an opportunity to help Willy by contacting the Kaiser (Paul Hörbiger) on his behalf, she takes it, even if that spells embarrassment for her aunt and the court counselor Hofwirth (Josef Meinrad) who is trying to court Therese.

Die Deutschmeister is a film that basically consists entirely of kitsch and is seasoned with a couple of charming characters. If you’re looking for Monarchy nostalgia and an intense dose of sugar, this is the film to turn to.

The film poster showing Stanzi (Romy Schneider) in the Prater with her date Willy (Siegfried Breuer Jr.).
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Je fais où tu me dis [Dressed for Pleasure] (2017)

Je fais où tu me dis
Director: Marie de Maricourt
Writer: Marie de Maricourt
Cast: Angélique Bridoux, Naëlle Dariya, Nathalie Cuenet, Vincent Chaumont
Seen on: 9.3.2021

Plot:
Sarah (Angélique Bridoux) is a wheelchair user and lives with her parents (Nathalie Cuenet, Vincent Chaumont). She is 20 years old and would like to explore her sexuality, but her options are limited, though not for a lack of trying on Sarah’s part. She is particularly interested in BDSM. When her mother hires a new cleaner and assistant, Victoria (Naëlle Dariya), Sarah finally finds somebody in her who can help her.

Je fais où tu me dis is a film that sets out to not just subvert but utterly obliterate the image of disabled people as asexual, as our society so often likes to think of them. And it does so with its tongue firmly in its cheek and a great protagonist (with a wonderful performance by Bridoux, who is actually disabled herself). I really have no complaints – I enjoyed this immensely.

The film poster showing Sarah (Angélique Bridoux) drinking from a glass of milk. She is in pink monochrome on a blue background.

Moxie (2021)

Moxie
Director: Amy Poehler
Writer: Tamara Chestna, Dylan Meyer
Based on: Jennifer Mathieu’s novel
Cast: Hadley Robinson, Lauren Tsai, Alycia Pascual-Pena, Nico Hiraga, Sabrina Haskett, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sydney Park, Anjelika Washington, Emily Hopper, Josie Totah, Amy Poehler, Ike Barinholtz, Marcia Gay Harden, Clark Gregg
Seen on: 8.3.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) sexism, misogyny, rape culture, rape, racism

Plot:
Vivian (Hadley Robinson) and her best friend Claudia (Lauren Tsai) are not girls who cause a fuss. They are trying to get through school as well as possible. When a new and very outspoken girl, Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Pena), joins their class, Vivian is impressed by but also anxious about Lucy’s self-confidence. After Vivian witnesses yet another sexist incident in her school, she finds herself inspired to do something. Drawing on her mother Lisa’s (Amy Poehler) rebellious past, she decides to anonymously publish a zine, denouncing the school’s sexism. That zine – Moxie – causes quite a stir in the school and also in Vivian’s life.

Moxie is a cute film with an openly feminist agenda – I’m here for that all the way. Even if it doesn’t achieve everything it sets out to do, it achieves a lot. And it is simply fun to watch.

The film poster showing a black and white image of the main characters screaming.
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