Mystery Road (2013)

Mystery Road
Director: Ivan Sen
Writer: Ivan Sen
Cast: Aaron Pedersen, Hugo Weaving, Ryan Kwanten, Jack Thompson, Tony Barry, Robert Mammone, Tasma Walton, Damian Walshe-Howling, David Field, Bruce Spence, Jack Charles, Tricia Whitton, Samara Weaving
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 14.6.2020

Plot:
Detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) returned to his hometown in the Outback just in time to investigate the murder of a young native girl – a murder the white rest of the police force doesn’t seem too interested in. Jay soon starts to suspect that the lack of interest may actually be active hampering from his colleagues, let alone the people around who all saw, heard and know nothing. Including Jay’s own daughter (Tricia Whitton) who doesn’t want anything to do with her father, but who knew the victim.

Mystery Road is atmospheric and Pedersen is a great lead, but I constantly felt like I was missing some context to understand what the fuck was actually happening. While that can make the appeal of a film, in this case, it was completely frustrating for me.

The film poster showing a lone car on a dirt road and the heads of three of the main characters.
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Straight A’s (2013)

Straight A’s
Director: James Cox
Writer: Dave Cole
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Anna Paquin, Luke Wilson, Riley Thomas Stewart, Ursula Parker, Amparo Garcia-Crow, Augustin Solis, Tess Harper, Powers Boothe, Christa Campbell
Seen on: 30.4.2020

Plot:
Scott (Ryan Phillippe) is the family screw-up and he hasn’t shown his face at home in a while. But after he has a vision of his dead mother (Tess Harper) telling him to make amends with his brother William (Luke Wilson), his sister-in-law and first love Katherine (Anna Paquin) and his father (Powers Boothe), Scott just shows up at Katherine’s home while William is on a business trip. As he waits for William to return, Scott causes an uproar for Katherine and her kids (Riley Thomas Stewart, Ursula Parker) who take a shine to their newly discovered uncle. Scott himself is uneasy with his own plan, drunk all the time and really not all that well.

Straight A’s is so firmly rooting for Scott without really acknowledging his many flaws or interested in him making up for past (and current) transgressions, that it is just annoying. I didn’t care for redeeming Scott, I wanted to strangle him instead. The film can’t work that way.

On a sidenote: in a film that is obviously trying to be smart and deep and that is so firmly rooted in its own privilege, that incorrect apostrophe in the title is annoying as fuck.

The film poster showing Katherine (Anna Paquin), Scott (Ryan Philippe) and William (Luke Wilson). An arrow points from Scott to Katherine with "He loves her", another arrow from Katherine to William with "She's married to his brother".

[SPOILERS]

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Lovelace (2013)

Lovelace
Director: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Writer: Andy Bellin
Based on: Linda Lovelace‘s autobiographies
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard, Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick, Juno Temple, Chris Noth, Bobby Cannavale, Hank Azaria, Adam Brody, Chloë Sevigny, James Franco, Debi Mazar, Wes Bentley, Eric Roberts,
Seen on: 20.4.2020

Content Note: abuse, domestic violence, rape

Plot:
Linda (Amanda Seyfried) lives with her parents (Sharon Stone, Robert Patrick) who are very strict. But that doesn’t mean that she can’t go partying with her friend Patsy (Juno Temple). At one of those parties, Linda meets the charming Chuck (Peter Sarsgaard). When her parents try to curb the relationship, Linda just moves in with Chuck. They get married, they appear happy, but Chuck is abusive. As he struggles with money, he pushes Linda to make porn. Her film, Deep Throat, is a huge success and bit by bit, Linda manages to get away from Chuck.

Lovelace tells a heavy story, and they manage not to fall (too much) into anti-porn rhetoric, despite the topic, but at its core it’s a film that never manages to see Linda as anything else but a victim.

The film poster showing Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) apparently naked, looking at the camera, her armes folded in front of her chest.
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Fruitvale Station (2013)

Fruitvale Station
Director: Ryan Coogler
Writer: Ryan Coogler
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray, Ahna O’Reilly, Ariana Neal
Seen on: 8.12.2018
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Content Note: police violence, racism

Plot:
It’s New Year’s Eve and Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) has a full day ahead of him. He lives with his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and their daughter and he hasn’t been exactly honest with her, but he wants to do better. He also wants to try and find a new job before she finds out that he lost his old one. And it’s his mom’s (Octavia Spencer) birthday to boot. But by the end of the day, all of his plans will come to a screeching halt and Oscar will be dead, shot by the police.

Given that Fruitvale Station is based on a true story, I was aware that this film wouldn’t be exactly easy. Even though I was braced for that, it still hit me hard. It’s just really, really good.

The film poster showing Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) standing on a subway platform.
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Thee Wreckers Tetralogy (2009-2018)

Thee Wreckers Tetralogy consists of four animated short films made between 2009 and 2018, starting life as music videos for Thee Wreckers. They are supplemented by a documentary about the films and the band.
The four short films are: No Place Like Home (2009), Lonely Bones (2013), Splintertime (2015), Reruns (2018)
Director: Rosto
Writer: Rosto
The documentary is: Everything’s Different, Nothing Has Changed (2017)
Director: Joao MB Costa, Rob Gradisen
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 22.9.2018
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I hadn’t heard of Thee Wreckers and I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into with these films, but I admit that I found the films, the animation, the music of the short films pretty mind-blowing. The animation’s aesthetics, the music and the dreamlike narrative style caught me just right and I really managed to lose myself in them. Even though each installment of the tetralogy is very different, they go together very well and make for an all around beautiful body of work.

Poster for the tetralogy showing the animated version of the band.

Read a little more about each of the short films after the jump.

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Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013)

Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Director: Jeff Barnaby
Writer: Jeff Barnaby
Cast: Devery Jacobs, Glen Gould, Brandon Oakes, Roseanne Supernault, Mark Antony Krupa, Cody Bird, Nathan Alexis, Kenneth D’Ailleboust, Kent McQuaid, Katherine Sorbey
Seen on: 17.7.2018

Plot:
It’s 1976 and by law, all First Nations children under 16 have to attend residential schools. For the Red Crow Mi’kmaq that means being locked up at school and at the mercy of the sadistic truant officer Popper (Mark Antony Krupa). So it’s not surprising that Aila (Devery Jacobs) tries to keep herself away from school, like many other First Nation families. So far she managed to pay Popper off by selling weed with her uncle Burner (Brandon Oakes). But when her father (Glen Gould) comes home from prison, things become unbalanced.

Rhymes for Young Ghouls takes on a difficult subject with a lot of understanding and creativity for a full emotional impact. It’s really strong.

Film poster showing a cowering naked girl from behind with the film title written across her back.
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Farah Goes Bang (2013)

Farah Goes Bang
Director: Meera Menon
Writer: Laura Goode, Meera Menon
Cast: Nikohl Boosheri, Kandis Fay, Kiran Deol, George Basil, Michael Steger, Samrat Chakrabarti, Lyman Ward, Kate French
Seen on: 5.1.2018
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Plot:
2004. Farah (Nikohl Boosheri) is campaigning for John Kerry, a work that takes her knocking on doors across the USA. She is accompanied by her two best friends, K.J. (Kandis Fay) and Roopa (Kiran Deol). Their trip isn’t all business, though. K.J. and Roopa think that it is the perfect opportunity for Farah to finally lose her virginity. Farah does tend to agree but is uncertain and doesn’t want to embarass herself.

Farah Goes Bang is not a perfect film but especially for a first feature film it is very good. Engaging characters, good pacing and interesting politics more than make up for the weaknesses of the film that probably stem from inexperience.

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Love Steaks (2013)

Love Steaks
Director: Jakob Lass
Writer: Jakob Lass, Ines SchillerTimon SchäppiNico Woche
Cast: Lana CooperFranz RogowskiKerstin AbendrothDaniel AlznauerEric PoppRalf Winter
Seen on: 11.10.2017
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Plot:
Clemens (Franz Rogowski) just started working at a spa hotel. He is allowed to stay in a small storage room there and starts learning. But when the meek Clemens meets the rebellious Lara (Lana Cooper) who works in the kitchen, sparks start flying. As the two get more and more wrapped into each other, that spark between them starts to cause chaos in the entire hotel.

Love Steaks wasn’t my cup of tea. Difficult people in broken relationships is an interesting topic but if you try to sell it to me as romance, I’m out. And that’s what happened here.

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Curse of Chucky (2013)

Curse of Chucky
Director: Don Mancini
Writer: Don Mancini
Sequel to: Child’s Play, Child’s Play 2, Child’s Play 3, Bride of Chucky, Seed of Chucky
Cast: Fiona DourifDanielle BisuttiBrad DourifJennifer TillyA MartinezChantal QuesnelleMaitland McConnellBrennan ElliottSummer H. Howell
Seen on: 22.9.2017
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Plot:
After the death of her mother Sarah (Chantal Quesnelle), Nica (Fiona Dourif) moves in with her sister Barb (Danielle Bisutti) and her family. Also moving is a doll that was sent to Sarah just before her death. Things quickly start to become very strange, and Nica begins suspecting there is more to that doll than she thought at first.

Curse of Chucky didn’t really blow me away but it was one of the better films of the series. Still there was potential for a better film in there.

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42 (2013)

42
Director: Brian Helgeland
Writer: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Chadwick BosemanHarrison FordNicole BeharieChristopher MeloniRyan MerrimanLucas BlackAndré HollandAlan TudykHamish Linklater
Seen on: 20.4.2017

Plot:
It is 1946. Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) is an excellent baseball player, but confined to the underfinanced, underrecognized and generally looked down upon Negro League due to the color of his skin. But Jackie is also not somebody who accepts things as they are, so when he is approached by Brooklyn Dodgers exec Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) to play as the first black player in the Major League, he takes the chance. But unfortunately not everyone sees Jackie’s potential, most of the people only see the color of his skin – and they are not happy about it.

Baseball is not really my thing, but learning about racism is definitely something I’m trying to do, so I decided to give 42 a chance. And it is a decent, albeit not groundbreaking and surprisingly white film with a fantastic Boseman in the lead.

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