The Devil All the Time (2020)

The Devil All the Time
Director: Antonio Campos
Writer: Antonio Campos, Paulo Campos
Based on: Donald Ray Pollock‘s novel
Cast: Tom Holland, Bill Skarsgård, Haley Bennett, Sebastian Stan, Kristin Griffith, Riley Keough, Jason Clarke, Harry Melling, Eliza Scanlen, Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska
Seen on: 18.9.2022

Content Note: domestic violence, rape, suicide, animal death

Arvin (Tom Holland) grew up in rural Ohio, shaped by religion, poverty and the tragic story of his parents, war veteran Willard (Bill Skarsgård) and the love of his life, Charlotte (Haley Bennett). After they both die when Arvin is still very young, he grows up with his grandmother (Kristin Griffith) and her adoptive daughter Lenora (Eliza Scanlen). Arvin is desperate to protect Lenora from the world – like his father couldn’t protect his mother. But the world is harsh and protecting isn’t easy.

The Devil All the Time is a movie all about how women die like fleas, and how hard that is for the men. It’s suffocating in its misery and in the end, one can’t help but wonder what the point of all this is.

The film poster showing an arrangement of the main characters in hues of brown and orange over an animal skull.
Continue reading

Sonne [Sun] (2022)

Director: Kurdwin Ayub
Writer: Kurdwin Ayub
Cast: Melina Benli, Law Wallner, Maya Wopienka, Thomas Momcinovic, Marlene Hauser, Lia Wilfing, Margarete Tiesel
Seen on: 13.9.2022

Yesmin (Melina Benli), Bella (Law Wallner) and Nati (Maya Wopienka) are best friends. On a bored afternoon, they shoot a music video to Losing My Religion using the hijabs of Yesmin’s mother. The video goes a bit viral, and the three girls rise to celebrity in the local muslim community, asked to perform at various events. But Yesmin – the only one of them who actually wears a hijab – grows increasingly uncomfortable with the situation and her friends’ behavior.

Sonne is Ayub’s fictional debut and proves her great talent. The film is creative and funny, but also serious and insightful about the situation of diasporic Kurds, especially young women. I was really impressed by it.

The film poster showing Yesmin (Melina Benli), Bella (Law Wallner) and Nati (Maya Wopienka) singing.
Continue reading

Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Punisher: War Zone
Director: Lexi Alexander
Writer: Nick Santora, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
Based on: Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru‘s comic character
Cast: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Doug Hutchison, Colin Salmon, Wayne Knight, Dash Mihok, Julie Benz, Stephanie Janusauskas
Seen on: 7.9.2022

The Punisher (Ray Stevenson) has been haunting the city for six years now – six years where he killed the villains of New York. The police haven’t caught up with him, despite knowing that he is Frank Castle, but they are not entirely dissatisfied with his work, so their motivation is not very high. During yet another shoot-out with the mob, Frank not only maims heavy hitter Billy (Dominic West), but he also kills an undercover cop. This prompts renewed interest in the police investigation, and it makes Billy – who had prided himself on his looks so far – swear revenge on The Punisher.

Punisher: War Zone is an extremely gory and violent take on the Punisher that glorifies him a little too much for my taste.

The film poster showing Frank Castle aka The Punisher (Ray Stevenson) shooting his guns.
Continue reading

Les liaisons dangereuses [Dangerous Liaisons] (2022)

Les liaisons dangereuses
Director: Rachel Suissa
Writer: Rachel Suissa, Slimane-Baptiste Berhoun
Based on: Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s novel
Cast: Paola Locatelli, Simon Rérolle, Ella Pellegrini, Héloïse Janjaud, Jin Xuan Mao, Oscar Lesage
Seen on: 4.9.2022
[Here are my reviews of other adaptations of the novel.]

Content Note: misogyny

Célène (Paola Locatelli) just moved to Biarritz from Paris, leaving behind her fiancé Pierre (Aymeric Fougeron). Just after her arrival, she meets surf champion Tristan (Simon Rérolle), more or less local celebrity and one half of the power couple of their school. The other half is Vanessa (Ella Pellegrini), child actor and star. What the people around them don’t know, though, is that they’re not actually together, but rather pretend for social media fame. They spend their time by making bets and manipulating the people around them. Tristan is intrigued by Célène, especially her promise to Pierre to marry him and stay a virgin until then. Vanessa uses that to make a bet with him, daring him to seduce her. But things become really complicated when Tristan and Célène find themselves drawn to each other for real.

The novel Les liaisons dangereuses is one of my favorites (despite some issues I do have with it), so I was really excited to get this new adaptation – the first one by a woman, if I’m not mistaken. But unfortunately, the modernization here didn’t work for me at all.

The film poster showing the central characters, with Célène (Paola Locatelli) front and center.
Continue reading

I and the Stupid Boy (2021)

I and the Stupid Boy
Director: Kaouther Ben Hania
Writer: Kaouther Ben Hania
Cast: Oulaya Amamra, Sandor Funtek
Seen on: 4.9.2022

Content Note: intimate partner violence

Nora (Oulaya Amamra) is preparing for a date, but as she heads out, she meets her ex-boyfriend Kevin (Sandor Funtek). What starts as innocous small talk quickly becomes a power struggle between the two.

I and the Stupid Boy is a sharp look at gender dynamics in relationships, and how men can quickly exert power about women in them. But while Nora’s desperation and helplessness are palpable, the film doesn’t stop there, but manages to turn things around, giving her her power back in a very satisfying way. It’s a really lovely short film that manages to say a lot in its short runtime.

Nora (Oulaya Amamra) walking in a dark, empty warehouse.

Short Term 12 (2013)

Short Term 12
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Writer: Destin Daniel Cretton
Cast: Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Stephanie Beatriz, Rami Malek, Kaitlyn Dever, LaKeith Stanfield, Alex Calloway, Kevin Balmore
Seen on: 4.9.2022

Content Note: child sexual abuse, child abuse, child neglect

Grace (Brie Larson) works in Short Term 12, a short term foster facility meant as a place to stay for children who can’t stay with their parents anymore until a permanent housing option is available. Though some children stay for a long time – like Marcus (LaKeith Stanfield) who is about to age out of the home. When Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) comes to stay with them, Grace is reminded of herself as a teenager. This, coupled with a new development in her relationship with Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) who also works at Short Term 12 makes it necessary for Grace to confront her own dark past.

Short Term 12 is a touching and realistic look at a group home and the people who work there. I found it touching and insightful.

The film poster showing Grace (Brie Larson) cycling past the forster home, with Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) on the carrier behind her.
Continue reading

Beast (2022)

Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Writer: Ryan Engle, Jaime Primak Sullivan
Cast: Idris Elba, Leah Jeffries, Iyana Halley, Sharlto Copley
Seen on: 2.9.2022

After the death of his ex-wife, Nate (Idris Elba) takes their two teenage daughters Norah (Leah Jeffries) and Mer (Iyana Halley) to South Africa where their mother came from originally. Meeting up with their old friend Martin (Sharlto Copley), the trip is supposed to reconnect and heal all of them a little. Things are off to a good start when Martin takes them out into the local national park where he works as a vet. But poachers have also been to the park, hunting, hurting and killing lions. Martin, Nate and the kids stumble upon evidence that one lion has started to fight back – and then they find themselves in its crosshair, prompting a desperate fight for survival.

Beast promises us a fight between Idris Elba and a lion, and it does give us that (not like The Grey that promises us Liam Neeson fighting a wolf and then cuts out just before that happens). If you would like more from a movie – like a plot that makes sense or characters that behave believably – you’ll be disappointed. But if that is all you want, go for it.

The film poster showing Nate, bloodied and scratched, holding a big knife.
Continue reading

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022)

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Director: Sophie Hyde
Writer: Katy Brand
Cast: Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack, Isabella Laughland
Seen on: 2.9.2022

Nancy (Emma Thompson) is a retired teacher and a widow who has never had an orgasm in her life. Generally, she feels incredibly inexperienced sexually. But she is about to change that. She has hired sex worker Leo (Daryl McCormack) to expand her sexual horizons. Even with that decision, though, this is easier said than done.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a rather revolutionary character study that centers the sexuality of older women and the emotional entanglements that come with sex. It’s beautiful, insightful and touching and blows the boundaries of what we usually get to see on screen wide open.

The film poster showing Leo (Daryl McCormack) and Nancy (Emma Thompson) sitting half-undressed on the floor at the foot of the bed.
Continue reading

Beloved (2022)

Director: Bishrel Mashbat
Writer: Bishrel Mashbat
Cast: Iveel Mashbat, Jana Miley, Roy Oraschin, Charletta Rozzell, Erdenemunkh Tumursukh
Seen on: 1.9.2022
[Screener Review.]

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Anar (Iveel Mashbat) and Kassy (Jana Miley) have been married for a while. Things have turned a little stale, unfortunately. When Kassy, an actress, gets invited on a date with a director (Roy Oraschin), she accepts, hoping to be cast in his movie. Meanwhile Anar, a bartender, gets a visit from Olivia (Charlette Rozzell) at his bar. She obviously has something to tell him. Both these events may push Anar and Kassy’s marriage over the brink.

Beloved is a melancholic look at a marriage falling apart that could have been a little more political, but definitely captures the sadness of a long drawn-out good-bye.

The movie poster showing two stylized figures embracing in the corner. The rest is simply blue.
Continue reading

Fucking with Nobody (2020)

Fucking with Nobody
Director: Hannaleena Hauru
Writer: Hannaleena Hauru, Lasse Poser
Cast: Hannaleena Hauru, Lasse Poser, Tanja Heinänen, Samuel Kujala, Anna Kuusamo, Jussi Lankoski, Sara Melleri, Hanna-Kaisa Tianen, Pietu Wikström
Seen on: 30.8.2022

Content note: sexual assault

Hannaleena (Hannaleena Hauru) is a filmmaker who just lost a project to her male colleague Kristian (Jussi Lankoski). Deeply upset by that loss, and pissed off at the cheesy social media presence Kristian cultivates with his girlfriend Shirley (Anna Kuusamo), who just happens to be the star of the stolen project, Hannaleena bets her friends that she can take an equally romantic and sappy instagram picture with her friend Ekku (Samuel Kujala) in minutes. What starts as a joke becomes a big parody project when the image of Hannaleena and Ekku takes off on insta and Hannaleena gets comments congratulating her on the new relationship. Pretty soon all of Hannaleena’s friends, including camera man Lasse (Lasse Poser) and her sister Viima (Sara Melleri) are working on creating the perfect couple online. But the project goes into very unforeseen directions.

Fucking with Nobody is a delightful piece of autofiction/metafiction, a feminist movie that wonders about the difficulties of making a feminist film, and it is funny to boot. I absolutely loved it.

The film poster showing Hannaleena and Ekku wearing identical make-up, pulling each other's hair and grabbing at each other.
Continue reading