The Adam Project (2022)

The Adam Project
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Jonathan Tropper, T.S. Nowlin, Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, Zoe Saldana, Catherine Keener
Seen on: 11.5.2022

Plot:
Adam (Walker Scobell) is twelve years old and a bit of a nerd. Since his father (Mark Ruffalo) recently died, he lives alone with his mother (Jennifer Garner) on a remote bit of land, dreaming of becoming cool. Or at least not bullied anymore. That’s when a space craft crashlands close to his home. And out of that spacecraft steps nobody else but himself – only 30 years older (Ryan Reynolds). Older Adam is on a very important mission. And he needs Young Adam’s help to finish it.

The Adam Project is fun enough. I like time travel stories in general, and this one is very sweet, albeit not terribly creative or ground-breaking. But it comes with a solid emotional core that makes it quite touching.

The film poster showing close-ups of the main characters in front of a space background.
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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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Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)

Raya and the Last Dragon
Director: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada
Writer: Qui Nguyen, Adele Lim
Cast: Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Izaac Wang, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandra Oh, Lucille Soong, Alan Tudyk, Dichen Lachman, Sung Kang
Seen on: 2.6.2021

Plot:
There used to be one country called Kumandra. But after a terrible plague, the Druun, that turned everybody it touched to stone, and that could only be stopped with the dragons – who all turned to stone themselves – the country split into five realms: Fang, Tail, Talon, Heart and Spine. The last of the dragon powers in form of a stone is in Heart, guarded by King Benja (Daniel Dae Kim) and his daughter Raya (Kelly Marie Tran). Benja would like to bring the five realms together again, but his plans don’t come to fruition. Instead, the magic stone is broken and the Druun return. There is only one hope for Raya now: finding Sisu (Awkwafina), the last dragon who supposedly was just lost and not turned to stone.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a beautifully animated, emotionally touching film. It is pretty much what you hope for when you go to watch a Disney princess film – an absolutely satisfying experience.

The film poster showing Raya standing in the middle, with Sisu above her. The rest of the image is separated in five parts, four representing one of the film countries and the fifth showing Raya and Namaari charging each other.
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Pachamama (2018)

Pachamama
Director: Juan Antin
Writer: Juan Antin, Patricia Valeix, Olivier de Bannes, Nathalie Hertzberg
Cast: Andrea Santamaria, India Coenen, Saïd Amadis, Marie-Christine Darah, Vincent Ropion, Jean-Marc Pannetier [I saw the film in English, these are the French voice actors]
Seen on: 23.3.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) colonialism

Plot:
Tepulpai (Andrea Santamaria) wants to become a shaman like Shaman (Saïd Amadis). When its time to prove that he is willing to sacrifice his most treasured possession to Pachamama and thus prove that he is becoming an adult, he can’t do it – unlike Naira (India Coenen) who is ready to sacrifice her small llama Lamita. When a tax collector shows up in their village and takes not only more than the village can afford, but also their Huaca, a sacred idol, Tepulpai hopes he can prove himself after all – by bringing back the Huaca.

Pachamama is a really beautiful film with a political core, but the story and the voice acting didn’t quite work for me.

The film poster showing Tepulpai and Naira flying on a big Condor bird. Lamita is watching them from the ground.
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A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

A Wrinkle in Time
Director: Ava DuVernay
Writer: Jennifer Lee, Jeff Stockwell
Based on: Madeleine L’Engle’s novel
Cast: Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Peña, André Holland, Rowan Blanchard, Bellamy Young, David Oyelowo
Seen on: 22.3.2021

Plot:
Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is an unusual child from an unusual family. Her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a scientist, as is her father (Chris Pine) – who has been missing for a while. He was working on tesseracts when he just disappeared. Meg’s genius little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) seems to know more about it. And he has made some strange friends who know even more than that: Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey). The three women prompt Meg, Charles Wallace and Meg’s class mate Calvin (Levi Miller) to go looking for her father – all through the universe.

I was rather disappointed when A Wrinkle in Time never got a big cinema release here in Austria, and I still think I would have appreciated seeing it on the big screen – the film is at its best, after all, when it just creates visuals. Other than those, it is very fine, but not great.

The film poster showing the main characters arranged in a circle.
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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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Deidra & Laney Rob a Train (2017)

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
Director: Sydney Freeland
Writer: Shelby Farrell
Cast: Ashleigh Murray, Rachel Crow, Lance Gray, Danielle Nicolet, Arturo Castro, Gage Bradley, Nick Moceri, Sasheer Zamata, Missi Pyle, David Sullivan, Tim Blake Nelson
Seen on: 7.3.2021

Plot:
Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) would like to worry about her college applications and how she can possibly afford to college in the first place. But instead her mother Marigold (Danielle Nicolet) is arrested and Deidra has to worry about paying bills, and taking care of her younger siblings Laney (Rachel Crow) and Jet (Lance Gray). Her dad, railway worker Chet (David Sullivan), is of no help, but when he mentions how easy it is to rob trains and how nobody gets hurt by it because everything is insured, Deidra starts making plans. But she needs Laney’s help for it to work.

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train is a fun, entertaining film that moves along at such a brisk pace, you almost miss the very serious and critical core that lies beneath all those entertaining bits.

The film poster showing Laney (Rachel Crow) and Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) standing back to back with their arms crossed.
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Re-Watch: Casper (1995)

Casper
Director: Brad Silberling
Writer: Sherri Stoner, Deanna Oliver
Based on: Seymour Reit and Joe Oriolo‘s character Casper the Friendly Ghost
Cast: Malachi Pearson, Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman, Cathy Moriarty, Eric Idle, Joe Nipote, Joe Alaskey, Brad Garrett, Amy Brenneman, Devon Sawa, Dan Aykroyd, Rodney Dangerfield, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson
Seen on: 5.1.2021

Plot:
Casper (Malachi Pearson) is a ghost who lives with his three uncles Stretch (Joe Nipote), Stinkie (Joe Alaskey) and Fatso (Brad Garrett) in a mansion. Contrary to his uncles, Casper is not interested in haunting humans, though. He would rather make friends. When the mansion gets inherited by Carrigan (Cathy Moriarty) who is sure that there is a treasure in the house, the uncles dial up their haunting, leaving Carrigan desperate to get into the house by any means necessary. When Casper learns of Dr. Harvey (Bill Pullman) and his daughter Kat (Christina Ricci) who travel the country trying to help ghosts, he sees a chance to fulfill his wish and Carrigan sees a chance to fulfill hers. But things turn out differently from what they all anticipated.

Casper is one of the films that was in constant circulation at home when I was a kid. But I probably haven’t seen it in over twenty years. Looking at it as an adult, it’s still a very sweet and funny kids’ film, although things, of course, strike me differently now.

The film poster showing Casper glimpsing over the letters of his name above the manor. His three ghost uncles' heads can be seen coming out of the manor. In front of it are Dr. Harvey (Bill Pullman) and Kat (Christina Ricci).
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Das schaurige Haus [The Creepy House] (2020)

Das schaurige Haus
Director: Daniel Prochaska
Writer: Marcel Kawentel, Timo Lombeck
Based on: Martina Wildner‘s novel [German]
Cast: Leon Orlandianyi, Marii Weichsler, Lars Bitterlich, Benno Rosskopf, Julia Koschitz, Michael Pink, Inge Maux
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2020
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Plot:
Hendrik (Leon Orlandianyi) and his little brother Eddie (Benno Rosskopf) move with their mother (Julia Koschitz) from Germany to Carinthia in the south of Austria. Their mother is a geologist who will study caves in the area. Hendrik is less thrilled about having to leave all his friends behind. And as soon as they move in the house, strange things start to happen with Eddie. Hendrik meets local kids Ida (Marii Weichsler) and Fritz (Lars Bitterlich) who tell him of the legends surrounding the house. Together the kids start to investigate.

Das schaurige Haus is a pretty perfect example for a kids’ horror film: it is always aimed at kids without being patronizing, funny, and it manages to be creepy in the right dose. Even though I’m not a kid anymore, I enjoyed it as well.

The film poster showing the four kids Ida (Marii Weichsler), Hendrik ( Leon Orlandianyi), Eddie (Benno Rosskopf) and Fritz (Lars Bitterlich) with flashlamps. Below them is an old house, everything is shrouded in fog.
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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Director: Joachim Rønning
Writer: Linda Woolverton, Noah Harpster, Micah Fitzerman-Blue
Based on: Disney’s Sleeping Beauty / the fairy tale
Sequel to: Maleficent
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Harris Dickinson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sam Riley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein, Robert Lindsay, David Gyasi, Jenn Murray, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Judith Shekoni, Miyavi, Kae Alexander, Warwick Davis
Seen on: 23.10.2019

Plot:
It’s been five years and Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and Aurora (Elle Fanning) have found a good way of living with each other and ruling their kingdom. But when Aurora accepts Prince Philipp’s (Harris Dickinson) proposal, things change. And the first thing is that both Aurora and Maleficent have to meet Philipp’s parents (Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Lindsay) and hopefully leave a good impression with them. But something else is afoot, too, that could threaten the entire kingdom.

I really loved the first Maleficent film, so my expectations for this sequel were pretty high, but unfortunately weren’t entirely met. It is an entertaining film, but I was hoping for more.

The film poster showing Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and in her wing several other characters and a castle.
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