Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

Bad Times at the El Royale
Director: Drew Goddard
Writer: Drew Goddard
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman, Nick Offerman, Xavier Dolan, Shea Whigham, Mark O’Brien, Charles Halford, Jim O’Heir
Seen on: 22.10.2018
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Plot:
The El Royale is a run-down motel literally straddling the state line between Nevada and California. Most of the time, it’s empty now, with a single night clerk, Miles (Lewis Pullman) enough to handle all the guests. But on this particular night, there are more guests than usual – and they are all here for their own unstated purposes: Father Daniel (Jeff Bridges) is looking for something. Darlene (Cynthia Erivo) wants to make her career as a singer. Laramie (Jon Hamm) is a vaccuum salesman on the road. Emily (Dakota Johnson) is running from something. As the guests bring their own story to the motel, things get more and more complicated.

Bad Times at the El Royale obviously tries to be a film in the vein of Tarantino’s best, but while a lot of the right ingredients are there for that, the film doesn’t really come together and starts to fall apart more and more the longer it lasts.

The film poster showing a montage of the main characters atop an image of the motel El Royale.
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Short Cuts (1993)

Short Cuts
Director: Robert Altman
Writer: Robert Altman, Frank Barhydt
Based on: short stories and a poem by Raymond Carver
Cast: Andie MacDowell, Bruce Davison, Jack Lemmon, Zane Cassidy, Julianne Moore, Matthew Modine, Anne Archer, Fred Ward, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Penn, Lili Taylor, Robert Downey Jr., Madeleine Stowe, Tim Robbins, Lily Tomlin, Tom Waits, Frances McDormand, Peter Gallagher, Huey Lewis, Annie Ross, Lori Singer, Lyle Lovett, Buck Henry,
Seen on: 20.10.2018
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Plot:
Nine intersecting stories of people in Los Angeles during the Medfly epidemic: Ann (Andie MacDowell) and Howard’s (Bruce Davidson) child (Zane Cassidy) was in an accident just before his coma. Police man Gene (Tim Robbins) cheats on his wife Sherri (Madeline Stowe). Lois (Jennifer Jason Leigh) works for a sex hotline, much to the dislike of her husband Jerry (Chris Penn). Doreen (Lily Tomlin) and Earl (Tom Waits) have a good marriage, at least as long as Earl is sober. Honey (Lily Taylor) and Bill (Robert Downey Jr.) are housesitting. Stormy (Peter Gallagher) is struggling with his divorce from Betty (Frances McDormand). Zoe tries to connect with her mother Tess (Annie Ross). Claire (Anne Archer) and her husband Stuart (Fred Ward) are invited to dinner by Marian (Julianne Moore) and Ralph (Matthew Modine). Stuart, Gordon (Buck Henry) and Vern (Huey Lewis) are looking forward to a long-planned fishing trip.

Short Cuts was really painful: a film filled with unlikeable men who behave like assholes and somehow we are supposed to think think that’s funny and/or interesting? No, thank you and I mean that in the harshest possible sense.

The film poster showing a fractured red heart in front of a white background.
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Origamy (Rachel Armstrong)

Origamy is a novel by Rachel Armstrong.
[I got this book from a LibraryThing Early Reviewer Give-Away.]
Finished on: 19.10.2018

Plot:
Mobius is a weaver, like her parents Newton and Shelley who are all part of a circus troupe. Weavers can manipulate spacetime, but Mobius has somehow forgotten how to do it and needs to start to learn again. Encouraged by her parents, she can soon start traveling again. She zips around the universe, discovering its multitudes of cultures for herself. Soon she realizes that something is wrong and there is a threat that hangs over the universe that may unravel it entirely.

Origamy is definitely an unusual book, but it’s unusual in a way that I struggled with to say the least. It’s not bad per se, but I felt like I couldn’t get my foot in the narrative’s door and stayed outside, catching only confusing glimpses of what was going on inside.

The book cover showing a piece of Origamy made from several different kinds of paper in front of stars in space.
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Veronica Mars (2014)

Veronica Mars
Director: Rob Thomas
Writer: Rob Thomas, Diane Ruggiero-Wright
Sequel to: the Veronica Mars TV show
Cast: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Enrico Colantoni, Chris Lowell, Percy Daggs III, Tina Majorino, Krysten Ritter, Martin Starr, Gaby Hoffmann, Andrea Estella, Jerry O’Connell, Francis Capra, Ryan Hansen
Seen on: 18.10.2018
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Plot:
Veronica (Kristen Bell) made it out of Neptune, California. She is now a lawyer in New York and in a relationship with Piz (Chris Lowell). But when her high school friend slash big love Logan (Jason Dohring) calls and asks for her help, Veronica returns. Logan’s girlfriend Bonnie (Andrea Estella) and Logan is being accused of the crime. Not wanting to get into deep, Veronica just agrees to help Logan find a good lawyer, but keeping the distance is easier said than done.

Veronica Mars (the movie) does offer some closure that was lacking in Veronica Mars (the TV show), but other than that, it doesn’t really have much to offer. For fans of the series, it will be a must see, for everybody else it’s definitely not.

The film poster showing Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) holding a huge camera.
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Cops (2018)

Cops
Director: Stefan Lukacs aka Istvan
Writer: Stefan Lukacs
Cast: Laurence Rupp, Anton Noori, Maria Hofstätter, Roland Düringer, Anna Suk, Michael Fuith
Seen on: 17.10.2018
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Plot:
Christoph (Laurence Rupp), called Burschi (“little boy”), has finally achieved what he has always dreamed of: he is training with the WEGA, Austria’s police special forces unit, under Konstantin Blago (Anton Noori), his big idol. His father Heinz (Roland Düringer) who is also a cop, but turned away from his career towards a more social role in the force sees Christoph’s dream with a critical eye. On a seemingly routine call Christoph ends up shooting a mentally ill man (Michael Fuith) who attacked. Celebrated as a hero by his squad and criticized by the public, Christoph starts to struggle with the events and his role in them.

I was pretty impressed by Cops as it takes a deep dive into police culture – which also means looking very sharply at masculinity. It’s sociological analysis in movie form and one I had yet to see from an Austrian perspective. Istvan handles it very well.

The film poster shwoing a police officer in riot gear with police tape running across his mouth.
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A Star Is Born (2018)

A Star Is Born
Director: Bradley Cooper
Writer: Bradley Cooper, Eric Roth, Will Fetters
Remake of: A Star Is Born (1937) (and 1954 and 1976)
Cast: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay, Rafi Gavron, Anthony Ramos, Dave Chappelle, Alec Baldwin, Marlon Williams, Brandi Carlile, Ron Rifkin, Barry Shabaka Henley
Seen on: 12.10.2018
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Content note: suicide

Plot:
Jack (Bradley Cooper) has seen his heyday as a musician and has made his home in a slump, saturated with a lot of alcohol. That’s when he meets Ally (Lady Gaga), talented, but unknown musician. Almost convinced that she has to give up on her dreams, Ally is convinced that she is not a singer, not made for the spotlight, but rather that she is a songwriter. But Jack gives her the leg up she needs to start her career as they fall in love with each other. But as Ally’s star rises, Jack’s keeps falling.

I admit, I was doubtful regarding A Star Is Born and whether I should see it at all. But then the critics kept falling over themselves with praise and I thought, I’d give it the benefit of the doubt. Having seen it, I am not convinced that I should have let myself be swayed. I mean, I have definitely seen worse films but that doesn’t mean it’s all that good either.

The film poster showing a black and white image of Jack (Bradley Cooper) playying the guitar and Ally (Lady Gaga) sitting in front of him, leaning in for a kiss.
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Waldheims Walzer [The Waldheim Waltz] (2018)

Waldheims Walzer
Director: Ruth Beckermann
Writer: Ruth Beckermann
Seen on: 12.10.2018
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“Plot”:
Kurt Waldheim was president of Austria from 1986 to 1992, after being the Secretary General of the UN. During his election campaign, it was revealed that he was an intelligence officer in the Wehrmacht and he was implicated in Nazi mass killings – a fact that did not keep him from getting elected, despite many discussions about it. Beckermann was involved in the protests against Waldheim at the time and filmed a lot of material – material she thought lost, but found again and now uses to look back at how things unfolded.

Waldheims Walzer is an excellent documentary. It’s informative, concise and brings home the flabbergasting outrageousness of it all, proving yet again how little Austria has done to reckon with its own past.

The film poster showing Waldheim's face with the title of the film over it in large white letters.
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Ballon [Balloon] (2018)

Ballon
Director: Michael Herbig
Writer: Kit Hopkins, Thilo Röscheisen, Michael Herbig
Cast: Friedrich Mücke, Karoline Schuch, David Kross, Alicia von Rittberg, Thomas Kretschmann, Jonas Holdenrieder, Tilman Döbler
Seen on: 6.10.2018
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Plot:
Peter (Friedrich Mücke) and Doris Strelzyk (Karoline Schuch) live in the GDR with their family, as do Günter (David Kross) and Petra Wenzel (Alicia von Rittberg). They would all like to leave the GDR, but exit is severely limited and they don’t have the right connections to get an exit visa. When they have the idea to fly across the border to West Germany in a home-made hot air balloon, they start the work. But their activities are noted by Seidel (Thomas Kretschmann) whose job it is to hunt down people who try to flee. And he is very good at it.

Ballon is an exciting, tense film that makes the repression in the GDR very tangible. I was surprised to get a film like this from Herbig who I only know as a comedy director – but it was in no way a bad surprise.

The film poster showing balloon silk burning.
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Venom (2018)

Venom
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writer: Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Kelly Marcel
Based on: David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane‘s comics character
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Melora Walters, Woody Harrelson, Peggy Lu
Seen on: 5.10.2018
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Plot:
Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is a journalist and he loves to dig deep. When he gets the chance to interview Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) who runs a huge tech company, he can’t resist asking some hard questions. But that choice leads for his entire life to explode around him – he loses his job and his girlfriend Anne (Michelle Williams). A year later, he is still reeling – and still obsessed with Drake. So when he gets a chance to take another dig at him, he does – and that brings him in touch with one of Drake’s projects: Venom, an alien who hitches a ride in his body.

Venom was a lot more fun than I expected. It’s not necessarily a good film, but it is definitely entertaining and very enjoyable.

The film poster showing Tom Hardy's face, half of which is an Alien with a huge eye and a mouth with sharp teeth.
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