Disobedience (2017)

Disobedience
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Writer: Sebastián Lelio, Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Based on: Naomi Alderman‘s novel
Cast: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola, Anton Lesser, Allan Corduner, Nicholas Woodeson, David Fleeshman, Bernice Stegers
Seen on: 15.5.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia

Plot:
Ronit (Rachel Weisz) left the Orthodox Jewish community where she grew up behind. But when her father (Anton Lesser) dies, she returns for the funeral. Reconnecting with her best friends Dovid (Alessandro Nivola), her father’s closest student, and Esti (Rachel McAdams), she learns that the two got married. This further complicates her return – because she left all those years ago because she and Esti were in love. And maybe they still are.

Disobedience is a film that finds its strength in the quiet moments and in the lead performances. But it’s also a film that left me with a sense of unease regarding its protrayal of both queerness and of the Orthodox Jewish community.

The film poster showing Esti (Rachel McAdams) and Ronit (Rachel Weisz) kissing.
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Gerald’s Game (2017)

Gerald’s Game
Director: Mike Flanagan
Writer: Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Based on: Stephen King‘s novel
Cast: Carla Gugino, Bruce Greenwood, Chiara Aurelia, Carel Struycken, Henry Thomas
Seen on: 21.4.2020

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Jessie (Carla Gugino) and her husband Gerald have an exciting weekend planned. In their remote vacation home during the off-season, they want to take the weekend to focus on themselves and their relationship – by spicing up their sex life. Gerald brought handcuffs and is eager to get going. Jessie is willing to give it a try but as the tying up quickly turns into a rape fantasy for Gerald, she doesn’t want to go along anymore. As he tries to convince her, Gerald has a heart attack though and suddenly Jessie finds herself all alone, chained to a bed. Or maybe she isn’t quite as alone as she thought.

Gerald’s Game is a tense, very well-made film with a fantastic Gugino. If you want to be creeped out, I can definitely recommend it.

The film poster showing Jessie (Carla Gugino) with her hands chained to the bed, her husband Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) lying on top of her.
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Mudbound (2017)

Mudbound
Director: Dee Rees
Writer: Virgil Williams, Dee Rees
Based on: Hillary Jordan‘s novel
Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige, Jonathan Banks
Seen on: 05.04.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, racial violence

Plot:
Henry McAllan (Jason Mitchell) buys a farm in the last corner of Mississippi without discussing it with his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) who is not thrilled. Nevertheless, they, their children and Henry’s cranky, racist father (Jonathan Banks) make their way there. The farm is being worked on by Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan) and his family who have been tending the land without much hope of ownership for generations. The McAllans and the Jacksons not only have the land in common, though under completely different conditions, but als World War II. Henry’s brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) is a soldier as is Hap’s son Roncel (Jason Mitchell). But the racial divide looms large in more than one way.

Mudbound is an excellent film that carries quite a punch and managed to not only not make me hate voice-over, but actually appreciate it. It’s definitely not easy to watch, but it is even more definitely really good.

The film poster with all of the main characters artfully arranged.
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A Christmas Prince (2017)

A Christmas Prince
Director: Alex Zamm
Writer: Karen Schaler, Nate Atkins
Cast: Rose McIver, Ben Lamb, Alice Krige, Honor Kneafsey, Sarah Douglas, Emma Louise Saunders, Theo Devaney, Daniel Fathers, Tahirah Sharif, Amy Marston, Joel McVeagh, Tom Knight, Richard Ashton
Seen on: 28.12.2019

Plot:
Budding journalist Amber (Rose McIver) gets the opportunity to report on the succession of Prince Richard (Ben Lamb) who has so far shown no inclination to take on responsibility: if he doesn’t accept the throne within the next weeks, he will forfeit his right to it altogether. But instead of an enlightening press conference, Amber gets no info whatsoever. By coincidence, she is mistaken as the tutor for Princess Emily (Honor Kneafsey) and takes the opportunity to go undercover to find out more about the royal household. It soon turns out that Richard is quite different than Amber thought.

A Christmas Prince is probably the epitome of Christmas movies. As such it and its sequels are practically inescapable, but they also made me reach the point where I could finally get out of my Christmas movie stupor. Because it really is a bit much, especially watching all three

The film poster showing Prince Richard (Ben Lamb) and Amber (Rose McIver).
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Christmas Inheritance (2017)

Christmas Inheritance
Director: Ernie Barbarash
Writer: Dinah Eng
Cast: Eliza Taylor, Jake Lacy, Andie MacDowell, Neil Crone, Michael Xavier, Lori Hallier, Mag Ruffman, Bill Lake, Anthony Sherwood, Martin Roach, Lindsay Leese
Seen on: 27.12.2019

Plot:
Ellen (Eliza Taylor) is set to inherit her father’s (Neil Crone) company and wealth. But she doesn’t really understand what that means and after one too many embarrassing moments in public, her father intervenes and sends her to the small town his company originated in to deliver a letter to his friend and business partner. But there are some conditions for her to complete the task: she can tell nobody who she really is and can only use the 100 dollars in cash that he gives her. Ellen is ready to prove herself to her father, but this might be easier said than done, especially when a snow storm hits. Thankfully, the people in town are very helpful – especially Jake (Jake Lacy).

Christmas Inheritance was a little bit too much for me, even halfway through a Christmas movie binge. Everybody is so good here and the plot is so very contrived, it was hard to take.

The film poster showing Eliza Taylor in front of a snowy landscape.
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Christmas Wedding Planner (2017)

Christmas Wedding Planner
Director: Justin G. Dyck
Writer: Keith Cooper, Rebecca Lamarche
Based on: Stacy Connelly’s novel Once Upon a Wedding
Cast: Jocelyn Hudon, Stephen Huszar, Kelly Rutherford, Rebecca Dalton, Eric Hicks, Joey Fatone
Seen on: 21.12.2019

Plot:
Kelsey (Jocelyn Hudson) has dreamed of becoming a wedding planner. Now her cousin Emily (Rebecca Dalton) is getting married on Christmas and Kelsey is the one who gets to plan it – just the big break she needs! But she encounters a serius bump in her plans in the shape of Connor (Stephen Huszar). He is not only Emily’s ex, but also a private investigator who is determined to dig up any possible dirt on Emily’s fiancé Todd (Eric Hicks). Deciding that you should keep your enemies close, Kelsey agrees to help – which means she now has to juggle the wedding, the investigation and her attraction to Connor.

Christmas Wedding Planner feels a little painted by numbers (yes, even for a Christmas movie). It’s still watchable, but it is not a holiday movie highlight.

The flm poster showing a smiling couple in the upper half and three women in the lower.

[SPOILERS]

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#REALITYHIGH (2017)

#REALITYHIGH
Director: Fernando Lebrija
Writer: Brandon Broussard, Hudson Obayuwana, Jana Savage
Cast: Nesta Cooper, Keith Powers, Alicia Sanz, Jake Borelli, Anne Winters, Patrick Davis, Michael Provost, Ryan Malaty, Kate Walsh, John Michael Higgins, Valarie Rae Miller, Jeffrey D. Sams, Leah Rose Randall
Seen on: 10.11.2019

Plot:
Dani (Nesta Cooper) dreams of becoming a vet and is working hard at her dream, studying and volunteering at a shelter. She runs into Cameron (Keith Powers) there when he brings in a dog to get treated. Cameron is the most popular guy in school, part of the swim team and has been Dani’s crush for a while. When they become closer, Dani’s former friend turned bully Alexa (Alicia Sanz) takes a renewed interest in Dani, given that she used to date Cameron herself. Alexa also runs the most popular social media channel about life at their high school, and she introduces Dani to her shiny world.

#REALITYHIGH is cute enough as it lasts, but is ultimately pretty much forgettable as it never strays off the beaten path.

The film poster showing Dani (Nesta Cooper), Cameron (Keith Powers) and Alexa (Alicia Sanz) standing in a hashtag-symbol.
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Pirmdzimtais [Firstborn] (2017)

Pirmdzimtais
Director: Aik Karapetian
Writer: Aik Karapetian
Cast: Maija Doveika, Kaspars Znotins, Dainis Grube, Kaspars Zale
Seen on: 28.6.2019
[Screener Review.]

Plot:
Katrina (Maija Doveika) and Francis (Kaspars Znotins) have been a couple for a while and things can be a little tense between them. When they are assaulted by a biker (Kaspars Zale), they are both pretty shellshocked. Katrina turns to a police officer for help, leaving Francis feeling inadequate: he couldn’t stop the assault in the first place and now he isn’t even good enough to help afterwards. Determined to prove his worth, he seeks out the biker himself, but their confrontation goes differently than planned.

Firstborn has a strong first half, but then lost me in the second half, unfortunately, when it becomes muddled, confusing and a little boring. But there’s a lot of material for thought about masculinity in the film, so that’s something.

The film poster showing Maija Doveika and Kaspars Znotins.
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Crooked House (2017)

Crooked House
Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Writer: Julian Fellowes, Tim Rose Price, Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Based on: Agatha Christie‘s novel
Cast: Max Irons, Stefanie Martini, Glenn Close, Honor Kneafsey, Christina Hendricks, Terence Stamp, Julian Sands, Gillian Anderson, Christian McKay, Amanda Abbington, Preston Nyman
Seen on: 17.12.2018
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Plot:
Charles Hayward (Max Irons) used to be a diplomat/spy in Egypt, but now he is back in London and takes up a business as a private detective. When the rich Aristide Leonides is poisoned in his home, his granddaughter Sophia (Stefanie Martini) calls on Hayward, who was her lover some time ago, to solve the case. Hayward arrives at the Leonides estate to face a complicated family filled with suspects and suspicions.

Crooked House was bad. Holy shit, it was such an exhausting film. I hated it so much, I was very happy that I coincidentally had alcohol-filled chocolates with me so I could dull the pain a little.

The film poster showing the main characters in front of a dark manor.
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Nervous Translation (2017)

Nervous Translation
Director: Shireen Seno
Writer: Shireen Seno
Cast: Jana Agoncillo, Angge Santos, Sid Lucero, Nafa Hilario-Cruz
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 3.11.2018
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Plot:
Shy Yael (Jana Agoncillo) is only 8 years old, and yet she spends most of her time on her own at home. Her father works abroad, but she has letters he speaks on tape that she listens to a lot. Her mother (Angge Santos) works closer to home, but when she finally comes home in the evening, she has no energy left for Yael. When Yael sees the advertisement for a pen that is supposed to be able to translate thoughts and feelings into writing, she is transfixed – maybe this will be the way for her to communicate.

There was a lot I liked about Nervous Translation, but the film didn’t really click for me. Maybe it just was too quiet a film programmed too late in the evening, but for whatever reason, I just didn’t connect with it as much as I would have liked.

The film poster showing a girl, a man, a woman, a cassette player and a cassette as cutouts over a beige background.
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