In The Land Of Lost Angels (2019)

In The Land Of Lost Angels
Director: Bishrel Mashbat
Writer: Bishrel Mashbat
Cast: Erdenemunkh Tumursukh, Iveel Mashbat, Mike Cali, Robert Corsini, Saint Ranson, Sam Bayaraa, Uyanga Mashbat
Seen on: 26.4.2021
[Screener review.]

Plot:
Ankhaa (Erdenemunkh Tumursukh) lives in LA, but his family is still in Mongolia, and in some trouble. They need money, and Ankhaa, having made it to the USA where he says he just got a big job feels responsible to deliver it. But fact is, he doesn’t have a good job. He doesn’t have any money. So he and his best friend Orgil (Iveel Mashbat) have come up with a plan, even if that plan isn’t legal.

In the Land of Lost Angels is a beautifully shot and well-acted film that hasn’t quite gotten its rhythm right. But it’s definitely a very promising debut.

The film poster showing a black and white shot of a man looking at some palm trees.
Continue reading

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

Velvet Buzzsaw
Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, John Malkovich, Billy Magnussen, Pat Healy
Seen on: 11.4.2021

Plot:
Morf (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an art critic, always looking for something new and good. But currently, he is rather more occupied with Josephina (Zawe Ashton). She works in the gallery run by Rhodora (Rene Russo), hoping to become a successful agent herself, and Morf is deeply in love with her, despite having a boyfriend. When Josephina finds out that a recently deceased tenant in her building was an artist who wanted to have all his art destroyed upon his death, she is convinced that his art is something special. She is not wrong, though she couldn’t have foreseen what kind of special it really is.

Velvet Buzzsaw is visually engaging, and has a great cast who obviously had a lot of fun chewing the scenery in this one. But the metaphor at its heart feels a little flimsy and could have done with a little more work.

The film poster showing a white frame on a white wall with the words Velvet Buzzsaw spraypainted across it, the red paint dripping down and over the frame.
Continue reading

Escape Room (2019)

Escape Room
Director: Adam Robitel
Writer: Bragi F. Schut, Maria Melnik
Cast: Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Jay Ellis, Tyler Labine, Deborah Ann Woll, Nik Dodani, Yorick van Wageningen
Seen on: 7.4.2021

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Zoey (Taylor Russell), Ben (Logan Miller), Jason (Jay Ellis), Mike (Tyler Labine), Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), and Danny (Nik Dodani) have all received an invitiation to a very special Escape Room – one that promises 10,000 dollars to the winner. It doesn’t take long for them to realize, though, that the game is literally one of life and death.

Escape Room feels pretty uninspired. A tired rehash of pieces we have all seen before, combined with bland characters. I was quickly bored and basically only finished the film out of lethargy.

The film poster showing the players in a cube-like room with several doors. Zoey's (Taylor Russell) can be seen in the background divided in puzzle peaces of which a few are missing.
Continue reading

Ham on Rye (2019)

Ham on Rye
Director: Tyler Taormina
Writer: Tyler Taormina, Eric Berger
Cast: Haley Bodell, Audrey Boos, Gabriella Herrera, Adam Torres, Luke Darga, Sam Hernandez, Blake Borders, Cole Devine, Timothy Taylor, Gregory Falatek
Seen on: 6.4.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) ableism

Plot:
Haley (Haley Bodell), Gwen (Audrey Boos) and Trish (Gabriella Herrera) are preparing for a ritual in the town’s diner. They, and every other kid their age, are donning the clothes of their grandparents and walk to the diner. Something big is going to happen, something that will change the course of their lives forever. At least, if they are chosen.

Ham on Rye builds on an interesting idea, but lacks a bit of focus and narrative clarity. Still, it’s definitely unusual.

The film poster showing 11 the fists of 11 teens, holding their thumbs in up or down positions.
Continue reading

Tu mérites un amour [You Deserve a Lover] (2019)

Tu mérites un amour
Director: Hafsia Herzi
Writer: Hafsia Herzi
Cast: Hafsia Herzi, Djanis Bouzyani, Jérémie Laheurte, Anthony Bajon, Sylvie Verheyde, Karim Ait M’Hand, Myriam Djeljeli, Alexander Ferrario, Jonathan Eap, Sophie Garagnon, Brice Dulin, Mouna Soualem, Lina Soualem, Abdelkader Hoggui, Donia Bouzyani
Seen on: 31.3.2021

Plot:
When Lila (Hafsia Herzi) finds out that her boyfriend Rémi (Jérèmie Laheurte) cheated on her with his ex-girlfriend Myriam (Myriam Djeljeli), she is devastated. Lila and Rémi break up, but at the same time, they aren’t actually willing to let go of each other. So, while Rémi heads to Bolivia to clear his head, Lila starts flirting with other men, hoping to find more luck with them.

Tu mérites un amour sounds like it should be right up my alley – a story about a woman trying to find her footing in the world? I like those – but it just didn’t work for me because Lila and her development didn’t work for me.

The film poster showing Lila (Hafsia Herzi) lying half-naked on a bed.
Continue reading

Les héros ne meurent jamais [Heroes Don’t Die] (2019)

Les héros ne meurent jamais
Director: Aude Léa Rapin
Writer: Jonathan Couzinié, Aude Léa Rapin
Cast: Adèle Haenel, Jonathan Couzinié, Antonia Buresi, Hasija Boric, Vesna Stilinovic, Damir Kustura, Slaven Vidak, Haris Devic, Midhat Slatina
Seen on: 31.3.2021

Plot:
After Joachim (Jonathan Couzinié) has an apparently random encounter with somebody on the street who gives him the idea that he is the reincarnation of a Zoran who appears to not have been a good person, he convinces his friend Alice (Adèle Haenel) to go to Sarajevo with him and find out more about his past life. Alice, a filmmaker who shot a documentary about Srebrenica and its aftermath, decides to make a film out of Joachim’s search as well. Together with soundmaster Virginie (Antonia Buresi) and cameraman Paul (Paul Guilhaume) they leave to find out who Zoran/Joachim was.

Heroes Don’t Die is an interesting, metafictional film that takes its seemingly fantastic premise to say something about how to live in the face of mortality – be it your own personal mortality, or the mortality of people around you, be it a single death or the masses who died in the war. I found it very intriguing.

The film poster showing Alice (Adèle Haenel) with her arm around Joachim (Jonathan Couzinié), a van can be seen behind them.
Continue reading

Salir del ropero [So My Grandma’s a Lesbian] (2019)

Salir del ropero
Director: Ángeles Reiné
Writer: Ángeles Reiné
Cast: Rosa Maria Sardà, Verónica Forqué, Ingrid García Jonsson, David Verdaguer, Candela Peña, Mónica López, Pol Monen, Alex O’Dogherty, Leander Vyvey, Liz Lobato, Maria Caballero
Seen on: 5.2.2021

Content Note: ableism, (critical treatment of) homomisia

Plot:
Eva (Ingrid García Jonsson) is just about to get married to Stuart (Leander Vyvey) who comes from a very rich and very conservative family. So when Eva hears that her grandmother Sofia (Verónica Forqué) wants to get married to her best friend Celia (Rosa Maria Sardà), Eva sees her wedding and her happiness threatened. She decides to return to Lanzarote and to talk some sense into her grandmother, keep her from getting married and thus causing an uproar and saving her union with Stuart. That’s easier said than done, though.

Salir del ropero is okay. It leans a little too hard on some of its comedic aspects, and puts the focus on Eva instead of Sofia and Celia, but it does have sweet moments.

The film poster showing Sofia (Verónica Forqué) and her granddaughter Eva (Ingrid García Jonsson) on one side, and Celia (Rosa Maria Sardà) and her son Jorge (David Verdaguer) on the other. Eva and Jorge seem to be pushing them apart.
Continue reading

Moffie (2019)

Moffie
Director: Oliver Hermanus
Writer: Oliver Hermanus, Jack Sidey
Based on: Andre Carl van der Merwe‘s autobiographical novel
Cast: Kai Luke Brummer, Ryan de Villiers, Matthew Vey, Stefan Vermaak, Wynand Ferreira, Rikus Terblanche, Ludwig Baxter, Hendrik Nieuwoudt, Nicholas Van Jaarsveldt, Hilton Pelser
Seen on: 26.1.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, abuse / hazing, racism

Plot:
It’s 1981 and Sout Africa is at war with Angola. Nicholas (Kai Luke Brummer) is about to start his two-year compulsory military service. He and the other recruits quickly fall into a rhythm of physical and psychological punishment and abuse – in other words, military training. Nicholas finds a friend in Sachs (Matthew Vey) whose political views make the service extra hard for him. But it is to Stassen (Ryan de Villiers) that Nicholas feels inexorably drawn. His feelings are returned, but nobody can know – the rampant homomisia in the army is everywhere and the punishment for getting caught is very harsh.

Much like its title promises – the South African version of f***ot – Moffie is a brutal film that shows us a brutal world and sugarcoating none of it. It is very good at what it does, but you have to steel yourself for it.

The film poster showing Nicholas (Kai Luke Brummer) in military uniform, looking straight at the camera.
Continue reading

Sommerkrieg [Summer War] (2019)

Sommerkrieg
Director: Moritz Schulz
Writer: Moritz Schulz, Tetiana Trofusha
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 11.12.2020

Content Note: fascism, abuse

“Plot”:
Jasmin and Jastrip are both looking forward to summer camp. Only their summer camp is a very special one: Azovez camp is organized by a nationalistic militita group that has been instrumental for Ukraine’s fight against Russia. And the camp is there to raise the next generation of patriots and soldiers.

Sommerkrieg gave me chills. It not only wonders why children would want to go to a war camp with military drills, it’s also a matter of fact depiction of right-wing extremists brainwashing children.

The film poster showing Jasmin and Jastrip in military style shorts and yellow shirts, cradling wooden machine guns.
Continue reading

In My Blood It Runs (2019)

In My Blood It Runs
Director: Maya Newell
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 10.12.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

“Plot”:
Dujuan lives with his mother and his siblings in Alice Springs. His grandmother tells him that he has inherited is grandfather’s healing power. It’s important to her that Dujuan gets to know his Aboriginal heritage and learns to speak Arrernte. For Dujuan, too, it is important: he is never more at home than when he returns to the traditional lands. But unfortunately, Dujuan also has to attend a state school where he is always an outsider.

In My Blood It Runs is a wonderful portrait of an extra-ordinary boy who has his work cut out for himself. Between poverty and prevalent racism, he finds strength in family and tradition, underscoring the importance of communities for BIPOC everywhere.

The film poster showing Dujuan crouching in the desert.
Continue reading