First Date (2021)

First Date
Director: Manuel Crosby, Darren Knapp
Writer: Manuel Crosby, Darren Knapp
Cast: Tyson Brown, Shelby Duclos, Jesse Janzen, Nicole Berry, Samuel Ademola, Ryan Quinn Adams, Angela Barber, Dave Reimer, Scott E. Noble
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2021
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Plot:
Mike (Tyson Brown) has had a crush on Kelsey (Shelby Duclos) approximately forever, but he never dared to ask her out. With a llittle pressure from his best friend, he finally calls her at least – and Kelsey actually asks him out. Mike’s joy quickly deflates when he realizes that he can’t have his parents’ car, and how can he take her out without a car? Enter Plan B: Mike needs to buy a car, quickly and very cheaply. The internet provides and Mike finds Dennis (Scott E. Noble) who sells him an old car in rather bad shape. And with the car, Mike buys a whole lot of problems that turns this date night into a night to remember indeed.

First Date is a fun, entertaining film that works mostly because Mike and Kelsey work so very well. I really enjoyed it.

The film poster showing a rose, a car and a gun with plus signs between them, adding up to a kissing couple. Everything looks like its a neon light in different colors.
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Sul più bello [Out of My League] (2020)

Sul più bello
Director: Alice Filippi
Writer: Roberto Proia, Michela Straniero
Cast: Ludovica Francesconi, Giuseppe Maggio, Gaja Masciale, Jozef Gjura, Eleonora Gaggero
Seen on: 12.9.2021

Content Note: stalking, ableism

Plot:
Marta (Ludovica Francesconi) has always had one dream: getting married to the love of her life. Unfortunately she does not have the best cards in life. Orphaned at a young age, not the prettiest and chronically ill (Mucoviscidosis) with the outlook of dying early, finding a partner has been difficult for her. Until she sees Arturo (Giuseppe Maggio) and knows that he is the one for her. Only, he doesn’t know it – yet.

Sul più bello looked like a sweet RomCom without too much substance. And that is not entirely wrong, but it has so little substance, and a couple of issues, that it doesn’t satisfy.

The film poster showing Arturo (Giuseppe Maggio) holding Marta (Ludovica Francesconi).
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Isi & Ossi (2020)

Isi & Ossi
Director: Oliver Kienle
Writer: Oliver Kienle
Cast: Lisa Vicari, Dennis Mojen, Ernst Stötzner, Walid Al-Atiyat, Zoe Straub, Hans-Jochen Wagner, Christina Hecke, Lisa Hagmeister, André Eisermann
Seen on: 5.9.2021

Content Note: ableism, classism, racism

Plot:
Isi (Lisa Vicari) grew up very rich indeed and her parents (Hans-Jochen Wagner, Christina Hecke) have a very clear idea of where she should go next once she finally gets through school – a bit of a struggle for Isi: getting a finance degree and then going into the family business. But Isi has other ideas: she would love nothing more than become a cook and is looking to go to a prestigious culinary arts class in New York. But she needs money for that, and her parents are unwilling to give it. When she meets Ossi (Dennis Mojen) by chance, she thinks she may have found a way to force her parents’ hands. Because Ossi is everything she is not: he grew up rough and poor. Most importantly, he is in need of money to secure a fight that could finally get his boxing career going. So the two strike a deal: Isi will give Ossi the money he needs, while they pretend to date until Isi’s parents give in. Easier said than done, though.

I love fake dating stories, so I definitely wanted to check out Isi & Ossi, but unfortunately I was pretty disappointed with this iteration of that trope. I found much of the film offensive and I just didn’t buy it.

The film poster showing polaroids of Isi (Lisa Vicari) and Ossi (Dennis Mojen)  that are stuck together with a piece of tape.
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Reminiscence (2021)

Reminiscence
Director: Lisa Joy
Writer: Lisa Joy
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandiwe Newton, Cliff Curtis, Marina de Tavira, Daniel Wu, Mojean Aria, Brett Cullen, Natalie Martinez, Angela Sarafyan
Seen on: 31.8.2021

Plot:
In a Miami almost entirely drowned Nick (Hugh Jackman) and his employee Watts (Thandiwe Newton) run a small reminiscence business. Their clients come to relive their memories in the most realistic way possible with them. Everything changes for Nick the day that Mae (Rebecca Ferguson) comes in, hoping to find her lost keys. Nick and Mae become very close – until Mae disappears, leaving Nick scrambling to understand what happened with her, with them. Unable to let go, he digs into her past and uncovers more than he bargained for.

I had not realized going into the film that it was a noir set in the future. If I had, I may have liked it a little better, but fact is, I usually don’t like noirs and Reminiscence reminded me again why that is.

The film poster showing Nick (Hugh Jackman) standing with a gun in his hand, pointed at the floor. Behind him is a half-submerged street with boats and the other main characters are superimposed over the setting orange sun.
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Die Mitte der Welt [Center of My World] (2016)

Die Mitte der Welt
Director: Jakob M. Erwa
Writer: Jakob M. Erwa
Based on: Andreas Steinhöfel‘s novel
Cast: Louis Hofmann, Sabine Timoteo, Ada Philine Stappenbeck, Inka Friedrich, Svenja Jung, Jannik Schümann, Nina Proll, Clemens Rehbein, Sascha Alexander Gersak
Seen on: 29.8.2021

Content Note: bimisia

Plot:
Phil (Louis Hofmann) lives with his mother Glass (Sabine Timoteo) and his sister Dianne (Ada Philine Stappenbeck) in an old mansion at the edge of town, but he just spent the summer abroad. Returning home, he finds that things between Glass and Dianne are tense and Dianne is barely talking to him. Fortunately, there is still his best friend Kat (Svenja Jung) with whom he can still have fun. When school starts, it brings a new student to their class, Nicholas (Jannik Schümann). Phil is convinced that he met Nicholas once already, but in any case, he feels very drawn to him. And Nicholas seems to return his interest. Between family, friends and first love, Phil has to figure out where he stands.

Die Mitte der Welt felt a little bit more like wish fulfilment and fantasy than I would have liked, but other than that, and the usual bimisic trope of the bisexual just not being able to be content with one person, it was nice enough.

The film poster showing Phil (Louis Hofmann) lying between Nicholas (Jannik Schümann) and Kat (Svenja Jung), but they are upside down. Below them, the rest of the central cast can be seen much smaller, standing in a group.
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Stuck Between Stations (2011)

Stuck Between Stations
Director: Brady Kiernan
Writer: Nat Bennett, Sam Rosen
Cast: Sam Rosen, Zoe Lister-Jones, Michael Imperioli, Josh Hartnett, Nadia Dajani, Casey Greig
Seen on: 4.8.2021

Plot:
Casper (Sam Rosen) is back in his hometown Minneapolis for a short while only. Out one evening, he runs into Rebecca (Zoe Lister-Jones). They went to high school together and Casper had a big crush on her back then, while Rebecca barely remembers him. Nevertheless they start talking and find that they enjoy each other’s company. With neither having a clear plan for the night, they end up making their way through town together.

Stuck Between Stations is a typical indie / mumblecore film by rather young filmmakers and how much you enjoy it will probably depend on how much you like those films in general. In any case, I am pretty neutral-positive about Stuck Between Stations, maybe more positive than my general stance towards mumblecore.

The film poster showing Casper (Sam Rosen), Rebecca (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Paddy (Josh Hartnett), once in pasted together close-ups, and once on bikes.
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In the Heights (2021)

In the Heights
Director: Jon M. Chu
Writer: Quiara Alegría Hudes, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Cast: Anthony Ramos, Melissa Barrera, Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins, Olga Merediz, Jimmy Smits, Gregory Diaz IV, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Stephanie Beatriz, Dascha Polanco, Noah Catala, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Marc Anthony
Seen on: 30.7.2021

Content Note: colorism, (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) runs a bodega in the Latinx community of Washington Heights, New York City, but he dreams of returning to Dominican Republic and get the bar his father ran there going again. And he is this close to making this dream a reality. Much closer than to aspiring fashion designer Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) who he has been pining for since about forever. His best friend Benny (Corey Hawkins) is also waiting for a girl – his boss’s (Jimmy Smits) daughter Nina Rosario (Leslie Grace) who is returning home form college for the summer – one of the few people who actually made it to college out of their neighborhood. But Nina Rosario is unsure whether she actually wants to continue with college.

I had no previous contact with In the Heights before seeing the film, but I went in expecting a bombastic feel-good movie and that’s certainly what I got. It didn’t quite pull me into the music as much I’d hoped, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good time.

The film poster showing a big crowd of people dancing in the streets of New York, Washington Heights to be specific.
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Morgen ist auch noch ein Tag, wenn du willst [Postcards from Sicily] (2020)

Morgen ist auch noch ein Tag, wenn du willst [literally: Tomorrow is another day, if you want]
Director: David Gräber
Writer: Andreas Neu
Cast: Hannah Zieziula, Christina Völz, Bo Anderl
Part of: Transition Queer Filmfestival
Seen on: 11.7.2021

Plot:
Claudia (Hannah Zieziula) and Marcus (Bo Anderl) have been dating for a while, but their relationship isn’t at its best anymore. Marcus feels that Claudia is distant, so he seeks to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend Jana (Christina Völz). What he doesn’t know is that Claudia is distant because she, too, met Jana and fell in love with her – and vice versa. Marcus, living out of his van, takes turn staying with the two women, but he can’t stop them both from turning away from him.

Postcards from Sicily didn’t work for me. I found it very tiring and couldn’t get into the story or the characters.

The film poster showing Marcus' van from above. Marcus (Bo Anderl) is lying on the roof, smoking, while Claudia (Hannah Zieziula) and Jana (Christina Völz) are standing in the open doors looking up at the sky.
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Kapana (2020)

Kapana
Director: Philippe Talavera
Writer: Senga Brockerhoff, Mikiros Garoes
Cast: Adriano Visagie, Simon Hanga, Mikiros Garoes, Dawie Engelbrecht, Foreversun Haiduwah, Albertina Hainane, Felicity Celento, Elize de Wee, Jeremiah Jeremiah, Lukas Paulus
Part of: Transition Queer Film Festival
Seen on: 11.7.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Plot:
George (Adriano Visagie) and Simeon (Simon Hanga) meet in a bar. They flirt, they have sex. They don’t really expect more, especially not in Namibia where homosexuality is criminalized. But then they run into each other again when George comes to buy Kapana for his lunch break, and finds that Simeon is the one who is selling it. Simeon panics, he isn’t out to anyone in his life, but George finds a way and they start dating. Only, George has a secret, and this could threaten to end things between them before they ever really started.

Kapana is a very sweet film that tries to deal with a lot of stuff in its short runtime, but also keeps its emotional side in sight. I really liked it.

The film poster showing Simeon (Simon Hanga) selling Kapana, grilled meat.
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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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