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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Katte ni furuetero [Tremble All You Want] (2017)

Katte ni furuetero
Director: Akiko Ohku
Writer: Akiko Ohku
Based on: Risa Wataya‘s novel
Cast: Mayu Matsuoka, Takumi Kitamura, Daichi Watanabe, Kanji Furutachi, Anna Ishibashi, Hairi Katagiri
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 05.06.2020

Plot:
Yoshika (Mayu Matsuoka) is an introverted accountant who spends most of her time dreaming of her high-school crush Ichi (One) although she hasn’t seen him in years. When a colleague at work, Ni (Two) (Daichi Watanabe) starts showing an interest in Yoshika, it completely throws her and she decides that she needs to reconnect with Ichi (Takumi Kitamura) to see if she can finally win his heart. So she organizes a class reunion even as she starts dating Ni.

Katte ni furuetero looks like a pretty standard RomCom but it bucks the trend a little with its complicated main character and its sometimes pretty ambiguous developments. Whether you will like that will probably depend on just how sweet you expect and want the film to be. I am a little undecided about it myself.

The film poster showing Yoshika (Mayu Matsuoka) surrounded by small cut-outs of the other characters in the film.
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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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