The Iceman (2012)

The Iceman
Director: Ariel Vromen
Writer: Morgan Land, Ariel Vromen
Based on: Anthony Bruno’s book of the same name about Richard Kuklinski
Cast: Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, Ray Liotta, David Schwimmer, Danny A. Abeckaser, John Ventimiglia, Ryan O’Nan, McKaley Miller, Megan Sherrill, James Franco, Stephen Dorff
Seen on: 30.4.2017

Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) works behind the scenes in the porn industry, a job that brings him in contact with Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta) who sees potential in Richard and promptly hires him as a contract killer. Richard takes to this new job with a sense of professionalism that includes keeping it very far away from his wife Deborah (Winona Ryder) and kids. But mob politics aren’t easy to navigate and Richard can’t make everybody happy at all times.

I didn’t expect much from this film, but despite a lengthy second half and some seriously atrocious 70s hair, it drew me in, mostly thanks to a magnetic Michael Shannon.

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Wanderlust (2012)

Director: David Wain
Writer: David Wain, Ken Marino
Cast: Paul RuddJennifer AnistonJustin TherouxAlan AldaMalin Akerman, Ken Marino, Joe Lo TruglioKathryn HahnJordan PeeleKeegan-Michael KeyRay Liotta
Seen on: 9.4.2017

Linda (Jennifer Aniston) and George (Paul Rudd) are a young, urban couple set for success. Linda expects her documentary to be financed, George expects to be promoted. But life doesn’t play along and both find themselves without a job but with an expensive apartment they can’t afford anymore. Desperate, George agrees to work for his brother Rick (Ken Marino), even though that means moving across the country. But on the way, Linda and George coincidentally spend a night in a commune led by the charismatic Seth (Justin Theroux). Initially taken aback by the alterantive way of life, Linda and George quickly start to take to the lifestyle and decide to give it a try for real.

Wanderlust is pretty much how you’d expect it to be: not particularly smart or insightful or novel, but it’s often quite funny in a rather stupid way.

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Vamps (2012)

Director: Amy Heckerling
Writer: Amy Heckerling
Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Krysten RitterSigourney WeaverDan StevensRichard Lewis, Larry Wilmore, Zak Orth, Wallace Shawn, Kristen JohnstonMalcolm McDowell, Gael García Bernal
Seen on: 1.1.2017

Goody (Alicia Silverstone) and Stacy (Krysten Ritter) are best friends, flatmates, vampires and single women in New York. They try to navigate all of this best as they can. They drink only animal blood that they get from their exterminator job and go to Sanguines Anonymous meetings. They have practically no secrets from each other (except Goody can’t really bring herself to tell the recently turned Stacy how old she truly is). They share their dislike of their maker Ciccerus (Sigourney Weaver). But when Goody meets her old flame Danny (Richard Lewis) again and Stacy falls in love with her classmate Joey (Dan Stevens), things will have to be re-evaluated.

Vamps may not be quite up to Clueless standards (Heckerling’s previous film starring Silverstone), but it’s an amusing film that entertains.

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Byzantium (2012)

Director: Neil Jordan
Writer: Moira Buffini
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma ArtertonSam RileyJonny Lee Miller, Caleb Landry Jones, Daniel Mays, Uri Gavriel, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Tom Hollander
Seen on: 1.1.2017

Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) and her mother Clara (Gemma Arterton) had to leave their old town in a hurry and have ended up in a small coastal town where they try for a new start. Being centuries old vampires, this is not the first time they had to do this. Eleanor is struggling with what she is, while Clara is pragmatic enough to always fall on her feet. She quickly finds Noel (Daniel Mays), who owns a run-down hotel, and with him shelter and work. Meanwhile Clare meets Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), a student with leukemia, and feels immediately drawn to him. But they aren’t save yet.

Byzantium has a great set-up and a great cast and it could have been utterly brilliant, but it did neither justice. To call it disappointing almost isn’t strong enough.

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Upside Down (2012)

Upside Down
Director: Juan Solanas
Writer: Juan Solanas, Santiago Amigorena, Pierre Magny
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst, Timothy Spall, Blu Mankuma, Nicholas Rose, James Kidnie, Vlasta Vrana, Kate Trotter, Holly Uloth
Seen on: 1.1.2017

The two planets Up Top and Down Below are so close to each other, in some places they are within touching distance. There is even a big building, the TransWorld HQ, that connects both. This is made possible by dual gravity: both planets come with their own gravitational system that pull the things, living and otherwise, that belong to each in opposite directions. Adam (Jim Sturgess) grew up in the mountains of Down Below where he met Eden (Kirsten Dunst) from Up Top. They fell in love, but their forbidden contact was discovered and Adam had to leave Eden behind, believing her dead. 10 years later, he discovers that she is actually alive and works at TransWorld. Adam knows he has to find her again.

Upside Down was a poorly constructed film full of tropes. It just didn’t work for me at all, instead it remained nonsense. It doesn’t even begin to hold a candle to Patema Inverted that works with the same idea.

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Leones [Lions] (2012)

Director: Jazmín López
Writer: Jazmín López
Cast: Julia Volpato, Pablo Sigal, Macarena del Corro, Diego Vegezzi, Tomas Mackinlay
Seen on: 16.7.2016

Isabel (Julia Volpato), Arturo (Pablo Sigal), Sofia (Macarena del Corro), Niki (Diego Vegezzi) and felix (Tomas Mackinlay) are lost in the woods. They’re wandering around, trying to find their way, not too worried about it. They pass the time as they walk with discussions and games, and sometimes they fight. They have a tape with a record of their own interactions that seems to hint at something, but they don’t know what it is. As their meandering way through the landscape becomes increasingyl circular though, they may have to figure that out.

Leones has an intriguing concept and nice camera work but nowhere near enough material to fill a feature film (even if it is only 80 minutes long). It could have worked, but really doesn’t.

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Djeca [Children of Sarajevo] (2012)

Director: Aida Begic
Writer: Aida Begic
Cast: Marija Pikic, Ismir Gagula, Bojan Navojec, Sanela Pepeljak, Vedran Djekic, Mario Knezovic, Jasna Beri, Nikola Djuricko
Seen on: 3.6.2016

Rahima (Marija Pikic) lost her parents in the Bosnian war and now has to raise her brother Nedim (Ismir Gagula) despite being only  a few years older than him. Conscientous, Rahima tries her best to do everything right. She works hard in a restaurant where she barely makes enough money and still makes sure that Nedim always has food on the table and can continue to go to school. They used to be very close, but Nedim is alienated by Rahima’s decision to convert to Islam, and with him being a teenager now, he starts to slip away – and Rahima is afraid that it isn’t a good place he’s moving towards.

Djeca sounds interesting on paper, but during the film I found my mind wandering more often than not. I just never really got into that film so much.

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The Last Road (2012)

The Last Road
Director: John Wheeler
Writer: John Wheeler
Cast: Aaron Long, Simon Sokowlowski, Laura Marklew, Irina Fisher, Sarah Jane Williams
Seen on: 2.12.2015
[Screener Review.]

Toby (Aaron Long) lives in a small town in England where he gets by, just, by boxing and some little businesses that aren’t always strictly legal. He takes care of his mother as best he can, which is not very well and unfortunately includes abusing her. The only one he has a tension free relationship with is his dog Prince. But then Prince is killed in front of Toby at the hands of one of his business partners who is trying to punish Toby. In his next fight, Toby loses control completely. As does his opponent who cuts Toby’s throat. The freshly deceased Toby returns home, where he gets chased away by a ghost (Irina Fisher). As he wanders forlornly, Edith (Sarah Jane Williams) picks him up and informs him that she is to pass judgment whether he is allowed to go to Heaven or has to go to Hell. It doesn’t take long until Toby finds himself in purgatory, on the last road.

The Last Road works with an interesting, but slightly undercooked concept. For a first time filmmaker, it’s not bad but it does come with its share of flaws.

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Re-Watch: The Expendables 2 (2012)

The Expendables 2
Director: Simon West
Writer: Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone
Sequel to: The Expendables
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Nan Yu, Liam Hemsworth, Jet Li, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Charisma Carpenter
[Here’s my first review.]

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and the rest of his crew (Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Jet Li and Liam Hemsworth) have just saved a Chinese businessman who was kidnapped, when Church (Bruce Willis) calls in a favor: they are supposed to retrieve something from a safe in a crashed plane in the Albanian mountains. To crack that safe, they need to take Maggie (Nan Yu) along (though Yin Yang [Jet Li] stays in China). What should be a very quick and not very eventful mission, goes south when Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) appears.

When I saw Expendables 2 for the first time, I finally watched the kind of film I wanted The Expendables (1) to be and it made me happy (I liked it so much I watched the first one again which I shouldn’t have). On second watch it isn’t quite as good anymore, but it is still above and beyond the first film.


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Middle of Nowhere (2012)

Middle of Nowhere
Director: Ava DuVernay
Writer: Ava DuVernay
Cast: Emayatzy Corinealdi, Omari Hardwick, Edwina Findley, Sharon Lawrence, Lorraine Toussaint, David Oyelowo
Part of: Framing Reality

Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) has devoted her life to her husband Derek (Omari Hardwick). She gave up medical school to be able to be near him and only counts the days until he gets out. But after four years of imprisonment, Derek is a changed man and he might still have another four years of incarceration to go. When his parole hearing is coming up, putting Ruby under further financial strain to hire a lawyer, things get even tenser. That’s when Ruby meets bus driver Brian (David Oyelowo) with whom she connects. Now Ruby has to start making decisions for her own life and not the lives of others.

Middle of Nowhere is a calm, slow film that doesn’t tell a grand story of world-shaking events but rather shows the everyday difficulties Ruby and women in her position face which is a very important thing to do and to see. It’s beautifully done, touching, excellent film.

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