The Story of the Stone (2018)

The Story of the Stone
Director: Starr Wu
Writer: Starr Wu
Based on: Cao Xueqin‘s novel Dream of the Red Chamber
Cast: Aric Chen, Etsen Chen, J.R. Chien, Golden Elephant, Adam Lin, Sky Qing Tian Li, Daniel Thai, Joe Liu, Stephen Rong, Dean Tang, Lear Chen, Ryan Hsieh
Part of: Transition Queer Film Festival
Seen on: 21.11.2020

Content Note: suicide, fat hate

Plot:
The Stone Bar is the gay bar in Taipei, and its newest waiter is Josh. Josh (Golden Elephant) is pretty and fresh, so he has his pick of men, but he would like to win florist Lin’s (Aric Chen) heart. Only Lin is still reeling from losing his last boyfriend to Aids and really can’t fathom having a new relationship. In his frustration, Josh turns to Sean (J.R. Chien) who is more than happy to have him. But amidst promiscuity and drugs, drama is pre-programmed.

The Story of the Stone did not work for me at all. I tried very hard to get into the film, but it was completely confusing and about halfway through I just gave up following anything that happened on screen.

The film poster showing Josh (Golden Elephant) standing half-naked in a bar filled with half-naked men. Everything is bathed in pink light.
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Hotel Artemis (2018)

Hotel Artemis
Director: Drew Pearce
Writer: Drew Pearce
Cast: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day, Dave Bautista, Kenneth Choi
Seen on: 8.11.2020

Plot:
Hotel Artemis is a safe haven in the middle of Los Angeles, a LA in full crisis mode. All the criminals can come here in case of medical emergency, knowing they will be cared for by the Nurse (Jodie Foster) and Everest (Dave Bautista) without having to fear the police – or each other. Only called by their room names, Waikiki (Sterling K. Brown) brings in his brother Honolulu (Brian Tyree Henry) after he got shot during a robbery. But some serious shit is about to hit the fan at the usually peaceful Hotel Artemis.

Hotel Artemis, unfortunately, sounds way cooler than it is. Despite the great cast and some very nice ideas, it just never finds its feet.

The film poster showing the main characters of the film with art deco ornaments around them.
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Happy Face (2018)

Happy Face
Director: Alexandre Franchi
Writer: Joelle Bourjolly, Alexandre Franchi
Cast: Robin L’Houmeau, Debbie Lynch-White, Dean Perseo, David Roche, E.R. Ruiz, Alison Midstokke, Noémie Kocher
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 24.9.2020
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Content Note: (critical treatment of) lookism, pedophilia

Plot:
Stan (Robin L’Houmeau) is struggling with his mother’s cancer diagnosis that leaves her in need of care, which he mostly provides. Most of all he struggles with the fact that he feels disgusted with her. He hopes to combat this by joining a self-help group for disfigured people led by Vanessa (Debbie Lynch-White). Where but there can he learn to be less shallow? So he decides to pretend to be disfigured himself. That plan, though, doesn’t work like he intended at all.

I was intrigued by the concept behind Happy Face and the fact that they cast a lot of actually disfigured people in the film. And it certainly tackles a difficult topic with care. Ultimately, though, it all revolves too much about Stan and what he can learn in this situation.

the film poster showing a face made of a collage of various newspaper cutouts
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The Nightingale (2018)

The Nightingale
Director: Jennifer Kent
Writer: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Baykali Ganambarr, Michael Sheasby, Damon Herriman, Sam Claflin, Harry Greenwood, Charlie Jampijinpa Brown, Magnolia Maymuru
Seen on: 16.7.2020

Content Note: rape, racism, gore

Plot:
Clare (Aisling Franciosi) was convicted in Ireland and shipped to Tasmania where she works as a maid for the army stationed there, under the command of Hawkins (Sam Claflin). She was supposed to go free years ago, but Hawkins isn’t ready to let her go. Things escalate and Clare finds herself devastated and bent on revenge against Hawkins. Hawkins is traveling through the forest to the next big city, so Clare resolves to follow. She hires the Indigenous Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) as a guide and moved by her desparation, Billy agrees against his better judgment. Making their way through the forest comes with its challenges quite apart from a hard treck – especially for a white woman only accompanied by a Black man.

The Nightingale is a rape-revenge film without exploitation and a feminist look at colonialism that, unfortunately, fails a little when it comes to considering intersectionalities. In any case, it’s a demanding and harsh film that is worthy of attention.

The film poster showing Clare (Aisling Franciosi) with a black bird flying across her face, covering half of it.
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Pause (2018)

Pause
Director: Tonia Mishiali
Writer: Tonia Mishiali, Anna Fotiadou
Cast: Stella Fyrogeni, Andreas Vasileiou, Popi Avraam, Georgina Tatsi, Andrey Pilipenko
Seen on: 7.7.2020

Plot:
Elpida (Stella Fyrogeni) has just been told that she is menopausal. This irrefutable proof that she is growing older lets her look at her life anew, especially her suffocating marriage to Costas (Andreas Vasileiou). Elpida starts to allow herself fantasies and make plans, but whether reality can conform to that is another question.

Pause is an interesting film that gives us a complex portrayal of an older woman. With menopause, it tackles a topic that is usually not mentioned at all and Fyrogeni’s excellent performance does its part as well. It’s really good.

The film poster showing a drawing of a uterus and fallopian tubes.
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Detrás de la Montaña [Beyond the Mountain] (2018)

Detrás de la Montaña
Director: David R. Romay
Writer: David R. Romay
Cast: Benny Emmanuel, Gustavo Sánchez Parra, Renée Sabina, Enrique Arreola, Marcela Ruiz Esparza
Part of: We Are One Film Festival
Seen on: 07.06.2020

Plot:
Miguel (Benny Emmanuel) lives a quiet life with his alcoholic mother (Marcela Ruiz Esparza) whom he takes care off. He works as a clerk to write letters for analphabetic people and always looks forward to Carmela (Renée Sabina) who often comes to send letters to her boyfriend. When Miguel finds his mother dead at home, clutching a letter with his father’s name and address, Miguel packs everything and leaves to find the father he never knew, determined to kill him. But things don’t quite go the way he plans.

Detrás de la Montaña isn’t bad for a debut feature, but unfortunately, it really doesn’t treat its women very well and that took my appreciation for the film away pretty quickly.

The film poster showing Miguel (Benny Emmanuel) with a bandaid on his forehead in blue-green-pink lighting.
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Truth or Dare (2018)

Truth or Dare
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Writer: Michael Reisz, Jillian Jacobs, Christopher Roach, Jeff Wadlow
Cast: Lucy Hale, Tyler Posey, Violett Beane, Hayden Szeto, Sophia Ali, Nolan Gerard Funk, Landon Liboiron, Sam Lerner, Tom Choi, Aurora Perrineau
Seen on: 21.5.2020

Plot:
Olivia (Lucy Hale) lets herself get dragged along on spring break to Mexico by Markie (Violett Beane), her best friend, who insists that they have one last bash together with their friends before university is over. Olivia had other plans, but she finds that she does enjoy herself, especially when she meets Carter (Landon Liboiron). Looking for a new thrill, Carter suggests to the group that they could all head to a special place: ruins of a monastery. Once there, they start to play Truth or Dare. But even when they leave and say that they want to quit playing, the game has other ideas – and the stakes grow ever higher.

I didn’t expect much of Truth or Dare (I mostly watched for Lucy Hale), but even so what I got was pretty underwhelming. It’s just generally a meh kind of film.

The film poster showing Olivia (Lucy Hale) in black and white with a big pink question mark superimposed.
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The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

The Cloverfield Paradox
Director: Julius Onah
Writer: Oren Uziel
Prequel to: Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, John Ortiz, Chris O’Dowd, Aksel Hennie, Ziyi Zhang, Elizabeth Debicki, Roger Davies
Seen on: 16.5.2020

Plot:
Earth is quickly nearing the point of no return in the energy crisis. Aboard the Cloverfield Space Station, Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is working with her colleagues on a particle accelerator, hoping that they can make it work which would mean a near-endless energy supply. But so far, they have not been successful and they are running out of possibilities to try. But when thing finally seem to go right, the consequeces of their experiments are definitely not what they expected.

The Cloverfield Paradox is a decent space station thriller/horror film. It wouldn’t have necessarily needed the connection to the other two Cloverfield films, but that it can be watched independently is one of its strength, I’d say. As is the awesome cast.

The film poster showing the starry universe.
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Duck Butter (2018)

Duck Butter
Director: Miguel Arteta
Writer: Miguel Arteta, Alia Shawkat
Cast: Alia Shawkat, Laia Costa, Mae Whitman, Hong Chau, Kate Berlant, Kumail Nanjiani, Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass, Lindsay Burdge
Seen on: 20.4.2020

Plot:
Naima (Alia Shawkat) and Sergio (Laia Costa) meet by chance at a night club and have a great evening/night together. As they talk, they come up with the idea to fast-forward through their relationship to see if it is meant to be by spending 24hours together without sleep – but with sex every hour. Naima hesitates at first and says she can’t because she has to work as an actress, but when she gets fired, she returns to Sergio and the two actually do give it a try.

Duck Butter is very much an American independent movie – how much that is or isn’t up you alley is probably a matter of taste. I did enjoy it for the most part, but the ending rubbed me the wrong way.

The film poster showing a drawing of almost just the eyes of Naima (Alia Shawkat) and Sergio (Laia Costa).

[SPOILERS]

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The Breaker Upperers (2018)

The Breaker Upperers
Director: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek
Writer: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek
Cast: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek, James Rolleston, Celia Pacquola, Ana Scotney, Rima Te Wiata, Carl Bland, Brett O’Gorman, Cohen Holloway, Jemaine Clement
Seen on: 15.4.2020

Plot:
Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie van Beek) are best friends who have a booming business together where they handle the break-ups for people who can’t go through with the break-up themselves, for whatever reason. And they make sure that the break-ups stick – whether that means pretending to cheat with their clients, or pretending that they are dead or missing doesn’t really matter to them. But when Mel starts to second-guess the ethics of their job, not only does their business suffer, but also their friendship.

The Breaker Upperers is a fun film that continuously approaches the line into cringe territory but never really crosses it (for me at least). Still, there is a relentlessness to their humor that just isn’t necessarily my cup of tea. I did enjoy the film, but I didn’t love it.

The film poster showing Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie van Beek) sittingat a desk with champagne and cash. Behind them Jordan (James Rolleston) and Sepa (Ana Scotney) look in through a window.
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