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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Saat po long: Taam long [Paradox] (2017)

Saat po long: Taam long
Director: Wilson Yip
Writer: Nick Cheuk, Lai-Yin Leung
Cast: Louis Koo, Yue Wu, Ka Tung Lam, Chris Collins, Tony Jaa, Jacky Cai, Ken Lo, Hanna Chan, Vithaya Pansringarm
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 26.9.2018
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Plot:
Lee Chung Chi (Louis Koo) is a police officer in Hong Kong. He is tough and good at his job, but when his teenaged daughter Wing Chi (Hanna Chan) disappears in Thailand, his position at home helps him very little. Nevertheless, he goes to Thailand, hoping to help in the investigation and to find his daughter again. In Thailand he finds officers Chui Kit (Yue Wu) and his partner Tak (Tony Jaa) who are in charge of the case, although not necessarily happy with having to deal with Chung Chi as well. But when Wing Chi’s disappearance leads to a criminal conspiracy, they need all the help they can get.

Paradox is a very cool film that manages to transcend its basic thriller set-up by a healthy dose of criticism of the system and really fantastic fight scenes. I enjoyed every second of it.

The film poster showing the faces of five men under a yellow background with the silhouette of a girl walking in front of it.
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Puen Tee Raluek [The Promise] (2017)

Puen Tee Raluek
Director: Sophon Sakdaphisit
Writer: Sopana Chaowwiwatkul, Supalerk Ningsanond, Sophon Sakdaphisit
Cast: Bee Namthip, Apichaya Thongkham, Panisara Rikulsurakan, Deuntem Salitul, Thunyaphat Pattarateerachaicharoen, Benjamin Joseph Varney, Teerapop Songwaja
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 25.9.2018
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Plot:
In 1997, Ib (Panisara Rikulsurakan) and Boum (Thunyaphat Pattarateerachaicharoen) are best friends. The two girls both come from rich real estate families, but when the financial crisis hits, their lives are forever changed. 20 years later, Boum (Bee Namthip) has risen from the ashes of the crisis and is working hard to restore her family’s company to its former glory, despite another financial crisis looming on the horizon. She agrees to a plan to finish building the high-rise started in 1997 but never finished. But as the project starts to get off the ground, Boum’s daughter Bell (Apichaya Thongkham), now the same age as Boum and Ib were back then, starts exhibiting worrisome behavior.

The Promise starts off strong, setting up its characters and the story nicely and creating good tension. But unfortunately, it completely spiralled out of control in the second half, making me wish that it had done a little less.

The film poster showing two women looking at the camera in front of a black background with a ghostly face behind them.
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Aterrados [Terrified] (2017)

Aterrados
Director: Demián Rugna
Writer: Demián Rugna
Cast: Maximiliano Ghione, Norberto Gonzalo, Elvira Onetto, George L. Lewis, Julieta Vallina, Demián Salomón, Agustín Rittano, Natalia Señorales
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 23.9.2018
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Plot:
A young couple, Juan and Clara (Agustín Rittano, Natalia Señorales), have issues with their neighbor Walter (Demián Salomón) who seems to be renovating his flat at all hours. But things quickly become stranger than just late-night banging. And it doesn’t stay the only strang occurrence in the area. When police man Funes (Maximiliano Ghione) is called in, he in turn brings in three paranormal experts (Norberto Gonzalo, Elvira Onetto, George L. Lewis) to investigate with him.

Aterrados has a great set-up, but once it is done putting everybody in place for the showdown, it kind of lost its steam, and I lost my interest. That being said, it starts off so well, that it makes the rest of the film definitely worth it, too.

The film poster showing a zombie with a split head.
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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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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
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 21.9.2018
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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.

Anna and the Apocalypse reads pretty much like your standard zombie film on paper. But it really isn’t standard at all – starting with the fact that it’s a musical and one of the most fun films I’ve seen in a while. It’s perfectly entertaining.

The film poster showing Ella Hunt raising a giant sharpened candy cane.
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Blue My Mind (2017)

Blue My Mind
Director: Lisa Brühlmann
Writer: Lisa Brühlmann, Dominik Locher
Cast: Luna Wedler, Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen, Regula Grauwiller, Georg Scharegg, Lou Haltinner, Yael Meier
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 21.9.2018
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Plot:
Mia (Luna Wedler) just moved to a new place with her parents. Trying to find her place at her new school, she finds the popular Gianna (Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen) and her friends who spend most of her time partying with alcohol and drugs. Mia starts to hang out with them and pushing her own limits. But it’s not only her behavior that changes: Mia’s body is starting to become very different as well.

Blue My Mind is a queer coming of age monster film – what’s not to love about that? I was very impressed by the film, especially considering that it’s the film school graduation piece by writer and director Brühlmann.

The film poster showing Luna Wedler and Zoë Pastelle Holthuizen.
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The Children Act (2017)

The Children Act
Director: Richard Eyre
Writer: Ian McEwan
Based on: his own novel
Cast: Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Fionn Whitehead, Rosie Cavaliero, Ben Chaplin
Seen on: 20.9.2018

Plot:
Fiona (Emma Thompson) is a judge who lives for her work. Her husband Jack (Stanley Tucci) has been fully supportive of that – so far. But he doesn’t want things to continue as they are. Fiona can’t deal with that revelation as she’s just taken on a new case about Adam (Fionn Whitehead), a teenager just shy of his 18th birthday refusing a blood transfusion for religious reasons – a transfusion that he needs to survive. Fiona has to decide whether he should be forced to have the transfusion despite his wishes. The only way to speak with him personally is if she visits him in the hospital – a visit that has a profound impact on both her and Adam.

The Children Act is a well-done film that tells an emotional story. It was a good film, but I think my favorite part of watching it were the reactions of the school class who watched it in the cinema with me.

The film poster showing Emma Thompson as a judge in court.
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Gemini (2017)

Gemini
Director: Aaron Katz
Writer: Aaron Katz
Cast: Lola Kirke, Zoë Kravitz, John Cho, Greta Lee, Ricki Lake, Michelle Forbes, Nelson Franklin, Reeve Carney, Jessica Parker Kennedy, James Ransone
Seen on: 14.9.2018

Plot:
Jill (Lola Kirke) is the personal assistant to starlet Heather (Zoë Kravitz). She is efficient in her job as she follows Heather around and smooths over the edges of her life. And there are many edges – from disgruntled exes to Heather trying to get out of a film she already committed to. At the end of the day, though, Heather is still frayed and asks Jill to leave her gun with her, a request that becomes more fateful than Jill could have anticipated.

As much as I enjoy watching Kravitz and Kirke, Gemini didn’t manage to convince me, neither of the story nor the characters. But at least it wasn’t boring.

The film poster showing Zoe Kravitz and Lola Kirke superimposed over the upside down image of a street lined with palm trees.
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Battle of the Sexes (2017)

Battle of the Sexes
Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Natalie Morales, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Eric Christian Olsen, Fred Armisen, Jessica McNamee, Austin Stowell, Lewis Pullman
Seen on: 26.8.2018

Plot:
Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) is a successful tennis player, fed up with the sexism in the industry that keeps female players down. Fellow player Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) is adamant that female players are paid less because they are less entertaining and also less good at tennis. Finally the beack and forth leads to a tennis match between the two that becomes emblematic for the entire fight for women’s rights.

Battle of the Sexes was nice, but it remains flatter than it should have been and doesn’t dare to rock the boat too much, which is disappointing.

The film poster showing Emma Stone and Steve Carell.
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