Rubikon (2022)

Rubikon
Director: Magdalena Lauritsch
Writer: Magdalena Lauritsch, Jessica Lind, Elisabeth Schmied
Cast: Julia Franz Richter, George Blagden, Mark Ivanir
Seen on: 16.9.2022

Plot:
Hannah (Julia Franz Richter) and Gavin (Georve Blagden) are sent to the Rubikon, a space station floating above earth and home of the algae experiments of Dimitri Krylow (Mark Ivanir) – humanity’s hope to regain control of the air and the climate down on Earth. Hannah and Gavin are replacing some other crew members, but there is more to their reasons for coming to Rubikon. Shortly after they arrive though, something happens on Earth. Communication is lost and a fog covers more and more of the planet.

I was pretty excited for Rubikon: Austrian Science Fiction, made by a woman no less, and judging from the trailer it looked really good. And all of these things are definitely true, but I found the script a little underwhelming, leaving me not quite as excited about the film going out as I was going in.

The film poster showing Hannah (Julia Franz Richter) wearing a space suit. The Earth is reflected in her visor, with a red fog covering a lot of it.
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The Princess (2022)

The Princess
Director: Le-Van Kiet
Writer: Ben Lustig, Jake Thornton
Cast: Joey King, Dominic Cooper, Olga Kurylenko, Veronica Ngo, Katelyn Rose Downey, Alex Reid, Ed Stoppard, Kristofer Kamiyasu
Seen on: 14.9.2022

Plot:
The Princess (Joey King) wakes up in a room at the top of the castle tower. She is wearing a wedding dress and chains. Slowly she realises that Julius (Dominic Cooper), king of the neighboring country, is in the middle of a coup and her family is in grave danger. But The Princess is not as easy a victim as Julius has probably imagined. She takes up her sword and will fight her way to her family and save her kingdom. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

The Princess is a fun action film that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It does think it is more feminist than it is, but that’s pretty much its biggest flaw. Other than that it is done well enough to give us an entertaining 90 minutes.

The film poster showing the Princess (Joey King) crouched with a sword in hand.
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Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)

Three Thousand Years of Longing
Director: George Miller
Writer: George Miller, Augusta Gore
Based on: A. S. Byatt‘s short story The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba
Seen on: 13.9.2022

Content Note: orientalism, fatmisia, ableism

Plot:
Alithea (Tilda Swinton) is a narratologist, studying the meaning and function of stories. She travels to Istanbul for a convention where she finds an old bottle at the market. She buys it as a souvenir. When she tries to clean it, she can’t believe it when an actual Djinn (Idris Elba) comes out of the bottle. He needs her to make three wishes. She knows how the stories about wishing end up, that they’re all cautionary tales. So the Djinn tries to convince her by sharing his life story.

Three Thousand Years of Longing is a beautiful, romantic fairy tale that I found honestly engaging and incredibly lovely despite its orientalism and a sequence of fetishizing fatness.

The film poster showing the Djinn (Idris Elba) standing behind Alithea (Tilda swinton), surrounded by carious characters from the film.
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Sonne [Sun] (2022)

Sonne
Director: Kurdwin Ayub
Writer: Kurdwin Ayub
Cast: Melina Benli, Law Wallner, Maya Wopienka, Thomas Momcinovic, Marlene Hauser, Lia Wilfing, Margarete Tiesel
Seen on: 13.9.2022

Plot:
Yesmin (Melina Benli), Bella (Law Wallner) and Nati (Maya Wopienka) are best friends. On a bored afternoon, they shoot a music video to Losing My Religion using the hijabs of Yesmin’s mother. The video goes a bit viral, and the three girls rise to celebrity in the local muslim community, asked to perform at various events. But Yesmin – the only one of them who actually wears a hijab – grows increasingly uncomfortable with the situation and her friends’ behavior.

Sonne is Ayub’s fictional debut and proves her great talent. The film is creative and funny, but also serious and insightful about the situation of diasporic Kurds, especially young women. I was really impressed by it.

The film poster showing Yesmin (Melina Benli), Bella (Law Wallner) and Nati (Maya Wopienka) singing.
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Les liaisons dangereuses [Dangerous Liaisons] (2022)

Les liaisons dangereuses
Director: Rachel Suissa
Writer: Rachel Suissa, Slimane-Baptiste Berhoun
Based on: Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s novel
Cast: Paola Locatelli, Simon Rérolle, Ella Pellegrini, Héloïse Janjaud, Jin Xuan Mao, Oscar Lesage
Seen on: 4.9.2022
[Here are my reviews of other adaptations of the novel.]

Content Note: misogyny

Plot:
Célène (Paola Locatelli) just moved to Biarritz from Paris, leaving behind her fiancé Pierre (Aymeric Fougeron). Just after her arrival, she meets surf champion Tristan (Simon Rérolle), more or less local celebrity and one half of the power couple of their school. The other half is Vanessa (Ella Pellegrini), child actor and star. What the people around them don’t know, though, is that they’re not actually together, but rather pretend for social media fame. They spend their time by making bets and manipulating the people around them. Tristan is intrigued by Célène, especially her promise to Pierre to marry him and stay a virgin until then. Vanessa uses that to make a bet with him, daring him to seduce her. But things become really complicated when Tristan and Célène find themselves drawn to each other for real.

The novel Les liaisons dangereuses is one of my favorites (despite some issues I do have with it), so I was really excited to get this new adaptation – the first one by a woman, if I’m not mistaken. But unfortunately, the modernization here didn’t work for me at all.

The film poster showing the central characters, with Célène (Paola Locatelli) front and center.
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Beast (2022)

Beast
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Writer: Ryan Engle, Jaime Primak Sullivan
Cast: Idris Elba, Leah Jeffries, Iyana Halley, Sharlto Copley
Seen on: 2.9.2022

Plot:
After the death of his ex-wife, Nate (Idris Elba) takes their two teenage daughters Norah (Leah Jeffries) and Mer (Iyana Halley) to South Africa where their mother came from originally. Meeting up with their old friend Martin (Sharlto Copley), the trip is supposed to reconnect and heal all of them a little. Things are off to a good start when Martin takes them out into the local national park where he works as a vet. But poachers have also been to the park, hunting, hurting and killing lions. Martin, Nate and the kids stumble upon evidence that one lion has started to fight back – and then they find themselves in its crosshair, prompting a desperate fight for survival.

Beast promises us a fight between Idris Elba and a lion, and it does give us that (not like The Grey that promises us Liam Neeson fighting a wolf and then cuts out just before that happens). If you would like more from a movie – like a plot that makes sense or characters that behave believably – you’ll be disappointed. But if that is all you want, go for it.

The film poster showing Nate, bloodied and scratched, holding a big knife.
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The Invitation (2022)

The Invitation
Director: Jessica M. Thompson
Writer: Blair Butler
Cast: Nathalie Emmanuel, Thomas Doherty, Stephanie Corneliussen, Alana Boden, Sean Pertwee, Hugh Skinner, Virág Bárány, Courtney Taylor, Carol Ann Crawford
Seen on: 2.9.2022

Plot:
Ever since the death of her parents, her mother dying only recently, Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) has been feeling at a loss as she has no other family. Or so she thought. On a whim, she sends in a DNA kit to a website connecting relatives and lo and behold, there is a cousin of hers in the UK – Oliver (Hugh Skinner). And Oliver is not only overjoyed to meet Evie, he is also rich enough to invite her back to the UK to attend a wedding in the extended family and meet everybody. That includes not only her family, but also Walt (Thomas Doherty), her most charming host. But even as Evie settles into the luxurious life of old money, she can’t shake the sense that there is something more going on here.

The Invitation is not great, but it is good enough to be entertaining and Nathalie Emmanuel is radiant. Plus, it has the most menacing manicure I have ever seen in my life.

The film poster showing Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) dressed in a bridal gown, blood on her mouth and with rolled back eyes sitting on a throne. Walt (Thomas Doherty) ist standing behind her, one hand on her shoulder.
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Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022)

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Director: Sophie Hyde
Writer: Katy Brand
Cast: Emma Thompson, Daryl McCormack, Isabella Laughland
Seen on: 2.9.2022

Plot:
Nancy (Emma Thompson) is a retired teacher and a widow who has never had an orgasm in her life. Generally, she feels incredibly inexperienced sexually. But she is about to change that. She has hired sex worker Leo (Daryl McCormack) to expand her sexual horizons. Even with that decision, though, this is easier said than done.

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is a rather revolutionary character study that centers the sexuality of older women and the emotional entanglements that come with sex. It’s beautiful, insightful and touching and blows the boundaries of what we usually get to see on screen wide open.

The film poster showing Leo (Daryl McCormack) and Nancy (Emma Thompson) sitting half-undressed on the floor at the foot of the bed.
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Beloved (2022)

Beloved
Director: Bishrel Mashbat
Writer: Bishrel Mashbat
Cast: Iveel Mashbat, Jana Miley, Roy Oraschin, Charletta Rozzell, Erdenemunkh Tumursukh
Seen on: 1.9.2022
[Screener Review.]

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Anar (Iveel Mashbat) and Kassy (Jana Miley) have been married for a while. Things have turned a little stale, unfortunately. When Kassy, an actress, gets invited on a date with a director (Roy Oraschin), she accepts, hoping to be cast in his movie. Meanwhile Anar, a bartender, gets a visit from Olivia (Charlette Rozzell) at his bar. She obviously has something to tell him. Both these events may push Anar and Kassy’s marriage over the brink.

Beloved is a melancholic look at a marriage falling apart that could have been a little more political, but definitely captures the sadness of a long drawn-out good-bye.

The movie poster showing two stylized figures embracing in the corner. The rest is simply blue.
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The Gray Man (2022)

The Gray Man
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writer: Joe Russo, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Based on: Mark Greaney‘s novel
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Billy Bob Thornton, Jessica Henwick, Dhanush, Alfre Woodard, Regé-Jean Page, Wagner Moura, Julia Butters, Shea Whigham
Seen on: 1.9.2022

Plot:
Many years ago, Six (Ryan Gosling) was recruited by Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton): in exchange for release from life-long imprisonment, Six would be an assassin for the CIA. Off the books, of course, taking on the cases that the CIA needs to handle quietly. His latest assassination goes a little awry, though. Six does succeed in killing the target, but also ends up with an encrypted drive and some doubts about Carmichael (Regé-Jean Page) who was in charge of the operation. Rightly so, as Carmichael immediately hires the ruthlessly violent Lloyd (Chris Evans) to take Six down, triggering an international manhunt.

The Gray Man is completely what you’d expect which in this case is unfortunately more of a polite way to say that it is boring than satisfying. There are good moments and a whole lot of potential, but it just never goes anywhere.

The film poster showing Six (Ryan Gosling), looking over his shoulder, an eyebrow raised.
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