The Craft (1996)

The Craft
Director: Andrew Fleming
Writer: Peter Filardi, Andrew Fleming
Cast: Robin Tunney, Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Rachel True, Skeet Ulrich, Christine Taylor, Breckin Meyer, Nathaniel Marston, Cliff De Young, Assumpta Serna
Seen on: 10.7.2021

Content Note: ableism, (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Sarah (Robin Tunney) and her family just moved to a new town, and her first day at her new Catholic private school is an anxious thing. It seems to be going well, when football star Chris (Skeet Ulrich) flirts with her in her lunch break. But at the same time, she also catches the eye of Bonnie (Neve Campbell), Nancy (Fairuza Balk), and Rochelle (Rachel True) who practice witchcraft and are sure that Sarah is the fourth that they have been missing to cast the really powerful spells. At least, Bonnie is sure about it, while Nancy is more doubtful. Nevertheless, they approach Sarah – a decision that changes all of their lives.

The Craft is far from a good film, but it has garnered a bit of a cult following, which made me want to see it anyway. I’m not sure if I get the cult, but there is something about The Craft for sure.

The film poster showing Bonnie (Neve Campbell), Nancy (Fairuza Balk), Sarah (Robin Tunney) and Rochelle (Rachel True) walking through a thunderstorm with a lot of lightning.
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L.A. Story (1991)


L.A. Story
Director: Mick Jackson
Writer: Steve Martin
Cast: Steve Martin, Victoria Tennant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Richard E. Grant, Marilu Henner, Susan Forristal, Kevin Pollak, Sam McMurray, Patrick Stewart
Seen on: 29.6.2021

Content Note: misogyny

Plot:
Harris (Steve Martin) is the wacky weekend weatherman for a local L.A. TV station. He is dating Trudi (Marilu Henner), but he is not particularly happy. When he meets Sara (Victoria Tennant) at a brunch party through their mutual friend Roland (Richard E. Grant), Harris is instantly smitten. But not so smitten that he doesn’t also find saleswoman SanDeE* (Sarah Jessica Parker) very attractive. After a magical incident where an electronic billboard starts to give Harris advice, he has to decide between the women in his life.

L.A. Story is a whimsical film, more interested in a ribbing love letter to L.A. itself rather than the characters in it. There are some nice laughs here, but also some stuff that hasn’t aged particularly well. I suspect that people who have a direct connection to L.A. will be particularly fond of it.

The film poster showing the silhouette of a person doing a handstand on a railing in front of a sunset over the ocean.
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Mortal Kombat (2021)

Mortal Kombat
Director: Simon McQuoid
Writer: Greg Russo, Dave Callaham
Based on: the video game
Cast: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Joe Taslim, Mehcad Brooks, Matilda Kimber, Laura Brent, Tadanobu Asano, Hiroyuki Sanada, Chin Han, Ludi Lin, Max Huang, Sisi Stringer, Mel Jarnson
Seen on: 22.6.2021

Plot:
Cole Young (Lewis Tan) is a MMA fighter and has gotten his fair share of beatings – as long as he can earn some money for his family (Matilda Kimber, Laura Brent), he’s happy to do it. What Cole doesn’t know, though, is that he is actually the descendant of a legendary fighter, a champion of the Mortal Kombat, which in turn makes Cole eligible to fight in the next Mortal Kombat, too. Since Earth lost the last nine tournaments against Outworld, another loss would mean that Earth goes to Outworld. Permanently. That’s why Shang Tsun (Chin Han), leader of the Outworld fighters, won’t take any chances and has sent Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) to kill all possible champions before the tournament starts. Next on the list: Cole, who finds himself on the run with Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), trying to figure out his powers.

I was overjoyed to see that Mortal Kombat still got a cinema start after all, but I seriously misjudged the film. I really didn’t expect it to be as bad as it is.

The film poster showing a face in a mask that shows only the eyes, the left side is Scorpion, glowing with fire. The right side is Sub-Zero frosted over with ice.
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Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)

Wonder Woman 1984
Director: Patty Jenkins
Writer: Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, Dave Callaham
Sequel to: Wonder Woman
Based on: William Moulton Marston‘s comics character
Cast: Gal GadotChris Pine, Kristen Wiig, Pedro PascalConnie NielsenRobin Wright, Lilly Aspell, Amr Waked, Kristoffer Polaha
Part of: DC movies
Seen on: 21.6.2021

Content Note: rape (dubious consent at the very least), racism, white saviorism

Plot:
Diana (Gal Gadot) has been living among the humans for decades now, occasionally making an appearance as Wonder Woman, but trying to keep those anonymous. For her day job, she works as an anthropologist in the museum where she meets her new, rather eager colleague Barbara (Kristen Wiig), as well as TV personality slash investor Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal). While Diana does take a liking to Barbara, she distrusts Lord immediately. And with good reason – as an artifact that supposedly grants wishes goes missing. But not after fulfilling Diana’s biggest wish and bringing back Steve (Chris Pine).

Given it’s late cinema start, the cat was out of the bag regarding Wonder Woman 1984 and its quality, or rather lack thereof. With my expectatons approriately lowered, the film was ultimately okay, apart from the things that were categorically not okay.

The film poster showing Diana (Gal Gadot) as Wonder Woman in a golden, winged suit with the glowing lasso of truth.
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Kandisha (2020)

Kandisha
Director: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Writer: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Cast: Mathilde Lamusse, Samarcande Saadi, Suzy Bemba, Mériem Sarolie, Félix Glaux-Delporto, Nassim Lyes, Dylan Krief, Sandor Funtek, Bakary Diombera, Walid Afkir
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Festival
Seen on: 18.6.2021
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Content Note: sexualized violence, orientalism/racism

Plot:
Amélie (Mathilde Lamusse), Morjana (Samarcande Saadi) and Bintou (Suzy Bemba) live in a Parisian banlieu. They love spending their time spraying in a neighborhood highrise set for destruction where they are unbothered by pretty much everyone. It is there that they discover the name Aisha Kandisha and Morjana tells them the story of the beautiful Moroccan woman who fell prey to Portuguese colonialists and can now be summoned to take revenge on men. After Amélie is assaulted by her ex-boyfriend, she does just that. But summoning Kandisha means getting more than she bargained for.

Kandisha is an atmospheric, well-made film that I wish had been done by a (French-)Moroccan woman instead of two white dudes.

The film title in white on a black background.
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Mandibules [Mandibles] (2020)

Mandibules
Director: Quentin Dupieux
Writer: Quentin Dupieux
Cast: Grégoire Ludig, David Marsais, Adèle Exarchopoulos, India Hair, Roméo Elvis, Coralie Russier, Bruno Lochet
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Festival
Seen on: 17.6.2021
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Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Manu (Grégoire Ludig) is currently homeless and desperate for cash, so when he gets recruited to transport a mysterious suitcase from one house to the next, he accepts. He steals a car and asks his best friend Jean-Gab (David Marsais) along for the ride. When they check the trunk, though, they find a dog-sized fly trapped there. Jean-Gab is certain, if they manage to train the fly, all of their problems are over. But that might be easier said than done.

Mandibules is a bit of a mixed bag of beans. There were definitely moments where I had to laugh in all honesty, but there are also really problematic things here that should not be in the film at all. Despite those, though, the film managed to take me along for the ride.

The film poster showing the main characters of the film in a group shot.
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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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His House (2020)

His House
Director: Remi Weekes
Writer: Remi Weekes
Cast: Sope Dirisu, Wunmi Mosaku, Malaika Wakoli-Abigaba, Matt Smith
Seen on: 27.5.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) managed to come from Sudan to the UK, and finally their time in the detention center is up, at least on a probationary basis. They are given a rather ramshackle house with their case worker Mark (Matt Smith) insisting how lucky they are – not even his house is that big. But as if adjusting to their new life wasn’t difficult enough, Bol and Rial soon realize that there is something wrong with the house, just behind the walls.

I was really impressed with His House. It’s not often that horror movies actually scare me, but this one certainly did. But it’s not only scary, it’s also a thoughtful examination of the horrors that are part of fleeing a country and settling in another.

The film poster showing Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku)  having dinner in a piece of kitchen that is floating on water.
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The Covenant (2006)

The Covenant
Director: Renny Harlin
Writer: J.S. Cardone
Cast: Steven Strait, Laura Ramsey, Sebastian Stan, Taylor Kitsch, Chace Crawford, Toby Hemingway, Jessica Lucas, Kyle Schmid, Wendy Crewson, Stephen McHattie
Seen on: 14.5.2021

Plot:
Caleb (Steven Strait), Pogue (Taylor Kitsch), Tyler (Chase Crawford) and Reid (Toby Hemingway) are known as the Sons of Ipswich, direct descendants of the witches persecuted in Salem. What the people around them don’t know is that they actually do have magic powers. A new year at their school brings the promise to come into their full powers when they turn 18, and it also brings new people – like Sarah (Laura Ramsey), who Caleb feels immediately drawn to, and Chase (Sebastian Stan) who may be more than it seems at first.

I had heard of The Covenant mostly from people who like Sebastian Stan a lot and I got the distinct impression that this film was pretty good. Well, reader, it was not, on really any level.

The film poster showing the Sons of Ipswich - Caleb (Steven Strait), Pogue (Taylor Kitsch), Tyler (Chase Crawford) and Reid (Toby Hemingway) - standing at the edge of a cliff, looking down. Below them is another image of Caleb and Chase (Sebastian Stan) in a magic battle.
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Re-Watch: 13 Going on 30 (2004)

13 Going on 30
Director: Gary Winick
Writer: Josh Goldsmith, Cathy Yuspa
Cast: Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis, Kathy Baker, Phil Reeves, Sam Ball, Marcia DeBonis, Christa B. Allen, Sean Marquette, Mary Pat Gleason
Seen on: 4.5.2021

Plot:
After being humiliated at her own 13th birthday party, Jenna (Christa B. Allen) wishes that she was 30 years already – and it seems that the birthday present she got from her best friend Mattie (Sean Marquette) grants her her wish. For the very next day, she wakes up an adult (Jennifer Garner), in a fancy apartment and working the job of her dreams as an editor at Poise magazine. It’s not easy to get her bearings in her new life, though. Jenna looks for Mattie to help her, but adult Matt (Mark Ruffalo) informs her that they haven’t been friends for a while. And when Jenna realizes more and more that her adult self isn’t a nice person, she decides to make a change.

I must have seen 13 Going on 30 when / shortly after it came out and I had very fond memories of it. Re-Watching it now, those fond memories were proven right: it is a cute, fun film and exactly the kind of thing I want to see when I am watching a RomCom.

The film poster showing Jenna (Jennifer Garner) wearing a nightgown and a jacket as she walks with the skyline of New York behind her.
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