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.
Continue reading

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon (2021)

Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Jeon Jong-seo, Evan Whitten, Kate Hudson, Ed Skrein, Craig Robinson
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 6.5.2022

Plot:
Mona (Jeon Jong-seo) has been locked away in a psychiatric facility because she has special powers – she can control others with her mind. But now she is finally able to escape and makes her way to the next city, New Orleans. Unused to dealing with the world, she stands out. When she meets stripper Bonnie (Kate Hudson) and Bonnie realizes what she is capable of, she takes her under her wing and together, they start a more or less new life.

So far, I didn’t really like Amirpour’s movies, but I’m happy to say that I very much enjoyed Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon that is a film that is a) not as obsessed with style as her other features and b) doesn’t take itself all that seriously. That means, it’s a film that has room for heart – and that’s just what I like to see.

Mona Lisa (Jeon Jong-seo) pressing against the window of a diner.
Continue reading

De uskyldige [The Innocents] (2021)

De uskyldige
Director: Eskil Vogt
Writer: Eskil Vogt
Cast: Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Svartveit, Kadra Yusuf, Lisa Tønne
Seen on: 14.4.2022

Content Note: ableism, racism, animal abuse and death

Plot:
Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum), her autistic sister Anna (Alba Brynsmo Ramstad) and their parents (Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Svartveit) just moved into a giant apartment complex. Ida is not particularly happy about it, or the attention her parents pay her sister who she likes to hurt, convinced that Anna doesn’t feel pain because she can’t express it. When Ida sets out to explore her new home, she meets Ben (Sam Ashraf) with whom she shares her cruel streak. Ben also appears to have special powers, able to move a bottle cap by thought alone. And Ben isn’t the only one there with powers, it seems. There is also Aisha (Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim) who has a telepathic connection with Anna. The four set out to explore their abilities, but things start to spiral out of control.

De uskyldige is a tense and atmospheric film with excellent performances by the children, but also a couple of pretty problematic tropes and an ending that was a bit of a let-down.

The film poster showing Ida (Rakel Lenora Fløttum) lying on a tire swing looking up, only that the swing rack and the ground are above her.
Continue reading

Afterlife of the Party (2021)

Afterlife of the Party
Director: Stephen Herek
Writer: Carrie Freedle
Cast: Victoria Justice, Midori Francis, Robyn Scott, Adam Garcia, Timothy Renouf, Gloria Garcia
Seen on: 24.3.2022

Plot:
Cassie (Victoria Justice) loves to party and to not take things seriously. This puts her at odds with her best friend since forever, Lisa (Midori Francis) who maybe takes things too seriously. On the occasion of Cassie’s birthday, they go out together with some of Cassie’s friends. When Lisa wants to head home, Cassie is upset and the two of them fight. The thing is: this is Cassie’s last night on Earth. Next thing she knows, it’s a year later and Cassie has to fix things with the most important people in her life – Lisa, her father (Adam Garcia) and her mother (Gloria Garcia) or she will have to spend her afterlife in hell instead of heaven. Fixing things is easier said than done, though.

Afterlife of the Party is okay. It’s not exactly great cinema but it is fun enough. I was a little disappointed, though, how the film interpreted “fixing things” with Lisa.

The film poster showing Cassie (Victoria Justice) in a sparkling dress raising a martini glass. Behind her are neon wings and a halo.
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

Spider-Man: No Way Home
Director: Jon Watts
Writer: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers
Based on: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko‘s comic
Sequel to: Spider-Man: Homecoming, Spider-Man: Far from Home
Cast: Tom HollandZendayaJacob Batalon, Marisa TomeiJon Favreau, Benedict Cumberbatch, Benedict WongTony Revolori, Jamie Foxx, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, Andrew Garfield, Tobey MaguireAngourie Rice, Martin Starr, Hannibal Buress, J.B. Smoove, J.K. Simmons, Rhys Ifans, Charlie Cox, Thomas Haden Church
Part of: Marvel movies
Seen on: 20.12.2021

Plot:
Now that the world knows that Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is Spider-Man, Peter’s life is thoroughly screwed up. Although things could be so very good now that both his best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) and his finally-girlfriend MJ (Zendaya) know the truth. Not to mention Aunt May (Marisa Tomei). But things just can’t work that way anymore, and so Peter asks Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) for a spell to make the world forget about Spider-Man’s identity. Things don’t work out the way he’d hoped, though, and the mess becomes even bigger than before.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is entertaining as hell, a cross-over of epic proportions and proof of that Spider-Man is never allowed to be happy ever. In short: it gives you one hell of a ride.

The film poster showing Spider-Man (Tom Holland) on a pile of rubble, surrounded by metal tentacles and the Green Goblin in the distance behind him.

[Slight SPOILERS follow]

Continue reading

Lazzaro felice [Happy as Lazzaro] (2018)

Lazzaro felice
Director: Alice Rohrwacher
Writer: Alice Rohrwacher
Cast: Adriano Tardiolo, Agnese Graziani, Alba Rohrwacher, Luca Chikovani, Tommaso Ragno, Sergi López, Natalino Balasso, Carlo Tarmati, Pasqualina Scuncia, Nicoletta Braschi
Seen on: 30.11.2021

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Inviolata is a small, secluded village that is pretty much cut off from the rest of the world. The people there live poorly and work hard as tobacco farmers for the Marchesa Alfonsina De Luna (Nicoletta Braschi) who comes to her estate only rarely. Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) is one of the workers, a sweet and obedient young man who is always pleasant and does whatever he is told – and he is told to do a lot. On one of the Marchesa’s visits, Lazzaro meets her son Tancredi (Luca Chikovani). Tancredi sees an opportunity in using Lazzaro to pretend that he was kidnapped, but that ruse backfires and changes all of their lives forever.

Lazzaro felice is interesting in many ways, but it did lose me along the way at some point – around the same time that it seemed to lose track of what story it is trying to tell in the first place.

The film poster showing Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) half hidden behind tobacco leaves.
Continue reading

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

Plot:
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.
Continue reading

The Juniper Tree (1990)

The Juniper Tree
Director: Nietzchka Keene
Writer: Nietzchka Keene
Based on: the Brothers Grimm fairy tale
Cast: Björk, Bryndis Petra Bragadóttir, Valdimar Örn Flygenring, Guðrún Gísladóttir, Geirlaug Sunna Þormar
Seen on: 19.11.2021

Plot:
Margit (Björk) and her older sister Katla (Bryndis Petra Bragadóttir) had to leave their home after their mother (Guðrún Gísladóttir) was killed for being a witch. Desperate to find a new home, Katla bewitches Jóhann (Valdimar Örn Flygenring), a widowed farmer. Jóhann already has a son, Jónas (Geirlaug Sunna Þormar), who is unwilling to accept Katla, and Katla has little love for him either. As Margit becomes friends with Jónas, she finds herself conflicted in their fight.

The Juniper Tree is probably the most famout Icelandic movie, a gorgeously restored black-and-white fairy tale adaptation that shies away from the clear-cut morality of the original fairy tale.

The film poster showing a black-and-white image of a kneeling Margit (Björk) looking desperately up.
Continue reading