Sun Dogs (2017)


Sun Dogs
Director: Jennifer Morrison
Writer: Raoul McFarland
Cast: Michael Angarano, Melissa Benoist, Allison Janney, Ed O’Neill, Eric Christian Olsen, J.R. Ramirez, Alexander Wraith, Xzibit, Jennifer Morrison
Seen on: 21.3.2021

Content Note: ableism, suicide

Plot:
Ned (Michael Angarano) has one goal, and one goal only: he wants to join the Marines to fight against the terrorists who caused 9/11. He has been trying every year for three years since 2001, not realizing that he will never make it because of his disability. When he makes yet another attempt, the recruiter Master Sgt. Jenkins (Xzibit) tries to let him down easy by sending Ned on a mission at home, not anticipating that Ned takes this mission absolutely seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he even convices Tally (Melissa Benoist), a rather lost, young woman, that the mission is very real and that she can help.

Sun Dogs is sweet and warm, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it, I have to admit. Despite that, I’d say that the good outweighs the bad here.

The film poster showing the film's main characters. Front and center Ned (Michael Angarano), saluting while clutching a mascot head.
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Thoroughbreds (2017)

Thoroughbreds
Director: Cory Finley
Writer: Cory Finley
Cast: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, Francie Swift, Kaili Vernoff
Seen on: 14.3.2021

Content Note: ableism/saneism

Plot:
Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke) used to be friends when they were children, but they haven’t seen each other in a long time. Now Amanda’s mother has asked Lily to hang out with her again since Amanda got quite a reputation after an incident with her horse. And Amanda is weird, no doubt about it. But despite initial awkwardness, they bond over their mutual dislike for Lily’s stepdad Mark (Paul Sparks) – which leads to a plan that could solve their problem.

Thoroughbreds has excellent performances and a good sense of style, but also an ending that ruined the film for me, unfortunately.

The film poster showing Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke) sitting as far away from each other as possible on a white couch in a white room wearing white and gray.
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Je fais où tu me dis [Dressed for Pleasure] (2017)

Je fais où tu me dis
Director: Marie de Maricourt
Writer: Marie de Maricourt
Cast: Angélique Bridoux, Naëlle Dariya, Nathalie Cuenet, Vincent Chaumont
Seen on: 9.3.2021

Plot:
Sarah (Angélique Bridoux) is a wheelchair user and lives with her parents (Nathalie Cuenet, Vincent Chaumont). She is 20 years old and would like to explore her sexuality, but her options are limited, though not for a lack of trying on Sarah’s part. She is particularly interested in BDSM. When her mother hires a new cleaner and assistant, Victoria (Naëlle Dariya), Sarah finally finds somebody in her who can help her.

Je fais où tu me dis is a film that sets out to not just subvert but utterly obliterate the image of disabled people as asexual, as our society so often likes to think of them. And it does so with its tongue firmly in its cheek and a great protagonist (with a wonderful performance by Bridoux, who is actually disabled herself). I really have no complaints – I enjoyed this immensely.

The film poster showing Sarah (Angélique Bridoux) drinking from a glass of milk. She is in pink monochrome on a blue background.

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train (2017)

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
Director: Sydney Freeland
Writer: Shelby Farrell
Cast: Ashleigh Murray, Rachel Crow, Lance Gray, Danielle Nicolet, Arturo Castro, Gage Bradley, Nick Moceri, Sasheer Zamata, Missi Pyle, David Sullivan, Tim Blake Nelson
Seen on: 7.3.2021

Plot:
Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) would like to worry about her college applications and how she can possibly afford to college in the first place. But instead her mother Marigold (Danielle Nicolet) is arrested and Deidra has to worry about paying bills, and taking care of her younger siblings Laney (Rachel Crow) and Jet (Lance Gray). Her dad, railway worker Chet (David Sullivan), is of no help, but when he mentions how easy it is to rob trains and how nobody gets hurt by it because everything is insured, Deidra starts making plans. But she needs Laney’s help for it to work.

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train is a fun, entertaining film that moves along at such a brisk pace, you almost miss the very serious and critical core that lies beneath all those entertaining bits.

The film poster showing Laney (Rachel Crow) and Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) standing back to back with their arms crossed.
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The Bye Bye Man (2017)

The Bye Bye Man
Director: Stacy Title
Writer: Jonathan Penner
Based on: Robert Damon Schneck‘s short story/chapter The Bridge to Body Island
Cast: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Doug Jones, Michael Trucco, Jenna Kanell, Erica Tremblay, Marisa Echeverria, Cleo King, Faye Dunaway, Carrie-Anne Moss, Leigh Whannell
Seen on: 31.1.2021

Plot:
Elliot (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and their friend John (Lucien Laviscount) decided to move off-campus together. They found a big house that meets their requirements and are excited for this next step into adulthood. But once they move in, strange things start happening. Sasha’s friend Kim (Jenna Kanell), who is a medium, feels a presence and the friends start to grow suspicious of each other. And then Elliot finds a strange name etched into the nightstand drawer: The Bye Bye Man.

The Bye Bye Man opens strongly and then loses a bit of its verve and momentum as it continues. In the end, the okay outweighs the good, but I have definitely seen worse films.

The film poster showing the Bye Bye Man (Doug Jones) - a hooded figure whose face you can't see - with the words "Don't think it. Don't say it." repeated all over his body.
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Re-Watch: Anna and the Apocalypse (2017)

Anna and the Apocalypse
Director: John McPhail
Writer: Alan McDonald, Ryan McHenry
Cast: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Marli Siu, Ben Wiggins, Mark Benton, Paul Kaye, Sean Connor, John Winchester, Euan Bennet, Ella Jarvis
Seen on: 27.12.2020
[Here’s my first review.]

Plot:
Usually nothing much happens in Little Haven. But this Christmas, zombies have found their way into town. As the town becomes quickly chaotic, Anna (Ella Hunt), her best friend John (Malcolm Cumming) and a few other high schoolers have to get across town to their high school where they hope to find safety.

After recently talking about Anna and the Apocalypse again and it just being Christmas, I thought it would be the perfect time to re-watch the film and I have to say that this was one of the best decisions. The film remains a delight.

The film poster shwoing Anna (Ella Hunt) in bloody clothes, raising a huge sharp plastic sugar cane.
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SPF-18 (2017)

SPF-18
Director: Alex Israel
Writer: Michael Berk
Cast: Carson Meyer, Noah Centineo, Bianca A. Santos, Jackson White, Sean Russel Herman, Rosanna Arquette, Molly Ringwald, Goldie Hawn, Keanu Reeves, Pamela Anderson
Seen on: 8.11.2020

Plot:
Penny (Carson Meyer) has always loved Johnny (Noah Centineo), and finally they found their way to each other. Now they finished school and summer stretches before them. Johnny is housesitting Keanu Reeves’ beach house and invites Penny. Since Penny assumes, hopes and fears that this will mean that they will finally have sex, she asks her cousin Camilla (Bianca A. Santos) along as moral support. Things get complicated afterwards, though. Young musician Ash (Jackson White) who is camping at the beach, joins them and Penny and he have an instant connection. Johnny is generally distant, trying to figure out where to head next. As is Bianca, who is afraid that nobody takes her serious. As the summer draws on and they learn to surf together, decisions have to be made.

SPF-18 is a mess with some nice cameos. I got the distinct impression that this was made by somebody so privileged, they live in a world entirely unlike mine, and it shows in pretty much everything. It’s a film utterly removed from the reality of most people – and doesn’t even know it.

The film poster showing five people with surfboards on the beach, getting ready to hit the waves.

[SPOILERS]

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Table 19 (2017)

Table 19
Director: Jeffrey Blitz
Writer: Jeffrey Blitz
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, Stephen Merchant, June Squibb, Tony Revolori, Margo Martindale, Wyatt Russell, Rya Meyers, Charles Green, Thomas Cocquerel
Seen on: 2.10.2020

Plot:
Eloise (Anna Kendrick) has been debating with herself whether she should attend the wedding of her (former?) best friend after her boyfriend – the bride’s brother and best man – Teddy (Wyatt Russell) dumped her. Over a text. Relegating Eloise from Maid of Honor to outcast at the wedding. In the end, she can’t stay away and ends up at the dreaded Table 19 – where all the guests sit that nobody expected or wanted to actually show up. Bina (Lisa Kudrow) and Jerry Kepp (Craig Robinson), Jo Flanagan (June Squibb), Walter Thimble (Stephen Merchant), and Renzo Eckberg (Tony Revolori) share Eloise’s fate and bring their own issues. As the wedding goes on and Eloise’s natural penchant for drama comes out more and more, things turn from awkward to outright catastrophic for them all.

I didn’t have high expectations for Table 19, but Anna Kendirick was ultimately enough of a draw for me to give it a go. And in some ways, it did surpass my expectations, but mostly it’s the cinematic equivalent of a cheap snack: pleasurable enough as long as it lasts, but gone from memory as soon as its over.

The film poster showing a fork holding up a wedding invitation. The fork has five tines, the middle one is the only tine in front of the invitation.
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Copwatch (2017)

Copwatch
Director: Camilla Hall
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 07.06.2020

“Plot”:
The documentary follows the copwatch group WeCopwatch, showing how they formed and how they operate: filming police officers at work in the hopes of mitigating excessive violence or to at least document it. It includes interviews with Ramsey Orta, Kevin Moore and David Whitt.

With the Black Lives Matter protests going on, Copwatch is, of course, very topical which is why it was included in the festival on short notice. And I’m glad that it was because it shows once more that these incidents of violence and murder by police are not isolated, singular cases but they happen a lot, all over the USA and have been going for about forever.

The film poster showing the hands of a Black person raised high.
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Volubilis (2017)

Volubilis
Director: Faouzi Bensaïdi
Writer: Faouzi Bensaïdi
Cast: Mouhcine Malzi, Nadia Kounda, Abdelhadi Talbi, Faouzi Bensaïdi, Nezha Rahile
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 06.06.2020

Plot:
Malika (Nadia Kounda) and Abdelkader (Mouhcine Malzi) have not been married long and are still in the process of building their life together. For now, they live with his family, which is uncomfortable in many ways, and work both – Malika as a house maid and Abdelkader as a security in a shopping center. Abdelkader takes his job very seriously. When he isn’t deferential, but outright aggressive to a shopper who is married to an important man, the consequences are dire for him. The resulting humiliation has him spiraling and threatens to bring down his life with Malika before it ever really began.

Volubilis packs a lot of social criticism – and while I usually love that, in this case, I just didn’t really connect emotionally with the film, making the criticism feel a lot weaker than it should have felt.

The film poster showing Malika (Nadia Kounda) and Abdelkader (Mouhcine Malzi) leaning close together.
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