All the Bright Places (2020)

All the Bright Places
Director: Brett Haley
Writer: Liz Hannah, Jennifer Niven
Based on: Jennifer Niven‘s novel
Cast: Elle Fanning, Justice Smith, Alexandra Shipp, Kelli O’Hara, Luke Wilson, Keegan-Michael Key
Seen on: 6.3.2020

Content Note: suicide, mental illness, domestic violence

Plot:
Finch (Justice Smith) is going for a run one night when he finds Violet (Elle Fanning) standing on the ledge of a bridge. He talks her down, but from then on, he can’t help wanting to help her. When their geography teacher gives them the assignment to explore Indiana’s sights in pairs, Finch sees the opportunity to partner up with Violet. She reluctantly agrees and they start their tours. But Finch, labelled a freak at school, has some problems of his own.

All the Bright Places looks like a “normal” teen romance film, but it goes pretty dark – darker than you expect from the look of it. Which is probably my biggest criticism of it, because other than that, it treats a difficult topic with a lot of care, albeit not always perfectly.

The film poster showing Violet (Elle Fanning) and Finch (Justice Smith) leaning in for a kiss.

[SPOILERS]

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Toy Story 4 (2019)

Toy Story 4
Director: Josh Cooley
Writer: Andrew Stanton, Stephany Folsom
Sequel to: Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3
Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan-Michael Key, Madeleine McGraw, Christina Hendricks, Jordan Peele, Keanu Reeves, Ally Maki, Jay Hernandez, Lori Alan, Joan Cusack, Bonnie Hunt, Kristen Schaal, Emily Davis, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Blake Clark, June Squibb, Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett, Betty White, Carl Reiner, Bill Hader, Patricia Arquette, Timothy Dalton, Flea
Seen on: 28.8.2019

Plot:
Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and Andy’s other old toys have found a good home with Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw). When Bonnie starts kindergarten, she crafts a new toy from some trash, Forky (Tony Hale) who promptly comes to life and joins the entire family. But Forky is not ready to be a toy – he believes himself to be trash. Woody has his hands full just to make sure that Forky doesn’t throw himself away. And if that wasn’t enough to deal with, Woody actually catches up with Bo Peep (Annie Potts) on the family trip. She was sold years ago – and has a very different outlook on the world now than Woody.

Toy Story 4 was really great. It was definitely worth the wait (almost ten years have passed since Toy Story 4 after all) to get this emotional and funny film.

The film poster showing Woody tipping his hat. In the background we can see a fair.
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The Lion King (2019)

The Lion King
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Jeff Nathanson
Remake of: The Lion King
Cast: Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Oliver, James Earl Jones, John Kani, Alfre Woodard, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Penny Johnson Jerald, Keegan-Michael Key, Eric André, Florence Kasumba, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Amy Sedaris, Chance the Rapper [I saw the German dub, though]
Seen on: 9.8.2019
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Plot:
Mufasa (James Earl Jones) rules the lions and the other animals in his valley. He has a son, Simba (JD McCrary), who is poised to inherit everything. But Mufasa’s brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is plotting against both of them – and succeeds. And so, Simba finds himself exiled and what used to be his kingdom taken over. Will he find the courage to fight for his people?

The original Lion King was “my” Disney movie – probably my favorite, certainly a very formative one – it just hit me at exactly the right age. Given this fact and the fact that I find these remakes mostly unnecessary, I was pretty much decided to not watch this film at all. But then I had a cinema date with my nieces and they chose this film and I ended up seeing it anyway (and in German to boot, though since I knew all the songs and so on in German anyway, that’s not that much of a deal in this case). This is all to say, I went into the film with trepidation and I left it very impressed by the visuals.

The film poster showing Mufasa standing with small Simba on a rock as the sun sets.
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The Disaster Artist (2017)

The Disaster Artist
Director: James Franco
Writer: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Based on: Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell‘s book of the same name
Cast: James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Ari Graynor, Alison Brie, Jacki Weaver, Paul Scheer, Zac Efron, Josh Hutcherson, June Diane Raphael, Megan Mullally, Jason Mantzoukas, Sharon Stone, Melanie Griffith, Hannibal Buress, Bob Odenkirk, Randall Park, Dree Hemingway, Zoey Deutch, Ike Barinholtz, Kevin Smith, Keegan-Michael Key, Adam Scott, Danny McBride, Kristen Bell, J.J. Abrams, Lizzy Caplan, Judd Apatow, Zach Braff, Bryan Cranston, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Greg Sestero, Tommy Wiseau
Seen on: 26.1.2017
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Plot:
Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) dreams of being an actor and making it big. In one of his acting classes, he meets Tommy Wiseau (James Franco). Tommy is a strange guy, but Greg is struck by his mysterious charisma and generall weirdness. They become unlikely friends. And since Tommy seems to have a lot of money, he can offer Greg a chance that he wouldn’t otherwise get: they should go to Hollywood together, stardom is sure to follow. But when it doesn’t, Tommy makes a new plan: he will make a film himself for them and then their film is going to make them famous.

The Disaster Artist is fun to watch, at least if you can take a huge James Franco ego project, because that’s what it is, too. Mostly it’s a good story that kept me glued to the screen.

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Wanderlust (2012)

Wanderlust
Director: David Wain
Writer: David Wain, Ken Marino
Cast: Paul RuddJennifer AnistonJustin TherouxAlan AldaMalin Akerman, Ken Marino, Joe Lo TruglioKathryn HahnJordan PeeleKeegan-Michael KeyRay Liotta
Seen on: 9.4.2017

Plot:
Linda (Jennifer Aniston) and George (Paul Rudd) are a young, urban couple set for success. Linda expects her documentary to be financed, George expects to be promoted. But life doesn’t play along and both find themselves without a job but with an expensive apartment they can’t afford anymore. Desperate, George agrees to work for his brother Rick (Ken Marino), even though that means moving across the country. But on the way, Linda and George coincidentally spend a night in a commune led by the charismatic Seth (Justin Theroux). Initially taken aback by the alterantive way of life, Linda and George quickly start to take to the lifestyle and decide to give it a try for real.

Wanderlust is pretty much how you’d expect it to be: not particularly smart or insightful or novel, but it’s often quite funny in a rather stupid way.

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Why Him? (2016)

Why Him?
Director: John Hamburg
Writer: John Hamburg, Ian Helfer
Cast: Zoey Deutch, James Franco, Bryan Cranston, Megan Mullally, Griffin Gluck, Tangie Ambrose, Cedric the Entertainer, Keegan-Michael Key, Kaley Cuoco, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley
Seen on: 24.1.2017

Plot:
Ned (Bryan Cranston), his wife Barb (Megan Mullally) and their son Scotty (Griffin Gluck) have been invited to spend Christmas with their daughter Stephanie (Zoey Deutch) and her new boyfriend Laird (James Franco). When they meet Laird, though, Barb and particularly Ned are taken aback. Laird is filthy rich, but he is also very eccentric and has trouble with respecting personal boundaries. What’s even worse: he obviously wants to ask Stephanie to marry him soon. Can Ned learn to like and accept Laird?

Why Him? is pretty much exactly how you expect it to be: it’s filled with immature humor, very problematic in some places, but put altogether it could have been way worse than it was.

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Vacation (2015)

Vacation
Director:John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein
Writer: John Francis Daley, Jonathan M. Goldstein
Sequel to: VacationEuropean VacationChristmas Vacation, Vegas Vacation, Hotel Hell Vacation
Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins, Chris Hemsworth, Leslie Mann, Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Charlie Day, Catherine Missal, Ron Livingston, Norman Reedus, Keegan-Michael Key, Regina Hall, Nick Kroll, Tim Heidecker, Kaitlin Olson, Michael Peña, Colin Hanks
Seen on: 24.8.2015

Plot:
Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) is trying his best to lead a good and successful life, but success won’t come and his family is slowly drifting apart. He decides that the perfect antidote to that would be to take them all on a trip. To Wally World, where he spent a vacation when he was a child. His wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and his two sons James and Kevin (Skyler Gisondo, Steele Stebbins) are less convinced that a road trip would be such a great idea, but they decide to go along with it anyway. As soon as they set off, though, Murphy’s Law comes into effect and everything that can wrong, does.

I had actually no intention of seeing this film as I thought that it wouldn’t be my cup of tea at all. (I think I saw the original when I was a kid, but I don’t know whether I ever saw any of the sequels.) But then my sister and nephew went and asked if I wanted to come along and I agreed. The film may still not be my cup of tea, but I didn’t find it as horrible as I thought I’d find it. And my nephew and sister had a blast.

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Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

Pitch Perfect 2
Director: Elizabeth Banks
Writer: Kay Cannon
Sequel to: Pitch Perfect
Cast: Anna KendrickHailee SteinfeldBrittany Snow, Rebel Wilson, Skylar Astin, Ben PlattAdam DeVine, Alexis Knapp, Ester Dean, Hana Mae LeeChrissie FitBirgitte Hjort SørensenFlula Borg, Anna Camp, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, John Hodgman, Snoop Dogg, David Cross, Keegan-Michael Key
Seen on: 31.5.2015

Plot:
The Barden Bellas have been quite successful for the past few years, when a new catastrophe hits: their by now huge show falls completely apart, right when they are performing for the President. Banned from college competitions afterwards, their only chance of making up for the massive blunder is by winning the World Championship of Acappella. But that won’t be easy: the championship takes place in Europe, where everybody hates the USA, Beca (Anna Kendrick) got an internship at a music studio which takes up a lot of her time and the formerly strong friendship between the women is crumbling.

Pitch Perfect 2 was completely disappointing. I really enjoyed the first film (even with a couple of hesitations) and I even re-watched it before seeing this one, but unfortunately PP2 enhanced all the worst parts of PP and didn’t improve anything else.

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Tomorrowland (2015)

Tomorrowland
Director: Brad Bird
Writer: Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird
Cast: Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Tim McGraw, Kathryn Hahn, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Robinson, Pierce Gagnon, Judy Greer
Seen on: 29.5.2015

Plot:
In the 60s everybody was excited about technology, above all Frank (Thomas Robinson) who tried builds his own jetpack for the World Fair. Even though the jetpack doesn’t work, it catches the eye of Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who changes Frank’s life forever.
50 years later the scientific enthusiasm of the world seems to be mostly gone, although there still are people like Casey (Britt Robertson) who dreams of becoming an astronaut and does everything in her power to stop the dismantling of a NASA launch site in her area – which leads her straight to prison. When she’s released, she finds a pin in her possession. A pin that shows her a beautiful utopia, one she’s convinced is real. And her search leads her directly to – by now adult – Frank (George Clooney).

Tomorrowland was a sweet film. Not great, but sweet, with a couple of moments that were quite frankly flabbergasting in their stupidity.

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