Downsizing (2017)

Downsizing
Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Cast: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Kristen Wiig, Rolf Lassgård, Ingjerd Egeberg, Udo Kier, Søren Pilmark, Jason Sudeikis, Maribeth Monroe, Neil Patrick Harris, Laura Dern, Margo Martindale
Seen on: 1.2.2018
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Plot:
The world has latched onto a new concept: downsizing. People are literally shrunk down to five inches. Given that they need much less resources that way, their dollar stretches much further, buying them a life of luxury. Paul (Matt Damon) is intrigued by the idea and when his friend Dave (Jason Sudeikis) tells him all about his newly shrunken life and how great it is, Paul and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to take the leap themselves.

Payne isn’t my kind of director, and Downsizing is unfortunately no exception, despite the fun premise. The execution is racist, sexist and gets lost inside its own metaphor. I was hoping for more.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (aka Episode VIII)
Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Sequel to: Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Mark HamillOscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro, Frank Oz, Justin Theroux, Noah Segan, Michaela CoelWarwick Davis, Joseph Gordon-LevittJoe Cornish, Edgar Wright
Seen on: 18.12.2017
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Plot:
The Resistance are still doing their best to fight against the First Order, but they are taking serious hits. Poe (Oscar Isaac) is frustrated with the slow progress of the Resistance. Meanwhile Rey (Daisy Ridley) has gone to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to get Jedi training. And Finn (John Boyega) wakes from his coma on the Resistance ship and teams up with Rose (Kelly Mary Tran) to make sure the Resistance stays safe.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was good entertainment but it didn’t capture me emotionally as much as it should have and thus didn’t manage to convert me from being mildly interested in the Star Wars films to want to dig deeper. But then I didn’t expect it to.

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Certain Women (2016)

Certain Women
Director: Kelly Reichardt
Writer: Kelly Reichardt
Based on: short stories by Maile Meloy
Cast: Laura DernMichelle WilliamsLily GladstoneKristen StewartJames Le GrosJared Harris
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2016

Plot:
A small town in Montana. Here, Laura (Laura Dern) works as a lawyer, currently busy with her client Fuller (Jared Harris) who has trouble accepting an offer for worker’s compensation. Not far from Laura, Gina (Michelle Williams) and Ryan (James Le Gros) are working on their dream home. Gina has her heart set on some stones that go to waste in a neighbor’s garden, but they’ll have to convince the neighbor to part with them. Meanwhile, a young rancher (Lily Gladstone) who stumbles into night school classes out of curiosity finds herself in front of a new teacher, Elizabeth (Kristen Stewart) and feels immediately drawn to her.

By now I’ve seen quite a few Reichardt movies, but Certain Women is the first one where I can say that I actually really liked it. Especially the last segment in this episodic film stole my heart.

[Slight Spoilers]

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Blue Velvet (1986)

Blue Velvet 
Director: David Lynch
Writer: David Lynch
Cast: Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Hope Lange, Dean StockwellGeorge DickersonJack Nance
Seen on: 10.5.2016

Plot:
Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) finds a severed human ear in his neighborhood. He brings it to the police but then finds himself too intrigued by the mystery to leave the investigation up to them. Hoping to find out more, he visits Detective Williams (George Dickerson) at home, but – unsurprisingly – Williams is unwilling to share. His daughter Sandy (Laura Dern), though, points Jeffrey to a mysterious night club singer, Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini) who is mixed up with the wrong kind of people, led by Frank (Dennis Hopper). And soon Jeffrey finds himself in over his head as well.

I haven’t seen much of Lynch’s work (yet), but Blue Velvet was my favorite so far, the first one I really fell in love with. It’s a thing of weirdness, beauty and intricacy with mesmerizing performances. How could I not?

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99 Homes (2014)

99 Homes
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Writer: Ramin Bahrani, Amir Naderi
Cast: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern, Clancy Brown, Tim Guinee, Noah Lomax
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 2.11.2015
[Review by cornholio.]

Plot:
Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) is trying his best to keep the family home together where he lives with his mother Lynn (Laura Dern) and his son Connor (Noah Lomax). But work has been sparse and now they are threatened with foreclosure. After a last attempt at court, Dennis finds the police and bank representative Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) in front of his house, putting him and his family on the street. Dennis is at a complete loss, but by chance he actually finds a job with Rick who doesn’t exactly work above the line in all places and rakes in quite a profit.

99 Homes is a well made film that is quite clear in its criticism of capitalism – which is much appreciated. But it’s also a film that is a little too hopeless for my taste.

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Wild (2014)

Wild
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Writer: Nick Hornby
Based on: Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail”
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Thomas Sadoski, Keene McRae, Michiel Huisman, Gaby Hoffmann
Seen on: 19.01.2015

Plot:
Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) needs to get away from her life that keeps crumbling around her. So she’s decided to walk the Pacific Crest Trail, despite not really knowing anything about hiking. Things are hardgoing at first, but bit by bit, she finds not only her pace and the right amount to pack and bring along, but peace with herself.

Wild is a well-made film with an excellent structure and a wonderful lead actress that taps into something that many (middle-class, white) women are looking for. I enjoyed it.

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The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

The Fault in Our Stars
Director: Josh Boone
Writer: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Based on: John Green’s novel
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Nat Wolff, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Willem Dafoe, Mike Birbiglia

Plot:
Hazel (Shailene Woodley) is sixteen, and is slowly dying from cancer. Her parents (Laura Dern, Sam Trammell) force her to attend a support group which only turns really interesting for Hazel when her friend Isaac (eye cancer) (Nat Wolff) brings his best friend Augustus (Ansel Elgort) to the group. Augustus lost one of his legs to osteosarcoma. Hazel and Augustus quickly bond over a novel – An Imperial Affliction – and their obsession with that book leads them on wholly unexpected adventures.

The Fault in Our Stars is exactly the sobfest you’d expect it to be and works just as well as the book. It is one of the most faithful adaptations of a book I’ve ever seen on screen.

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The Master (2012)

The Master
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Jesse Plemons, Ambyr Childers, Rami Malek, Joshua Close, Laura Dern

Plot:
Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) has returned from serving in the navy in WW2, but the war has left him in pieces. Now he drifts from job to job, fueled by home-brewed alcohol. By chance he stumbles upon Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a self-made and rather successful cult leader of The Cause. Dodd, or Master as he is also called, and his wife Peggy (Amy Adams) take Freddie in, hoping to cure him and Freddie falls head first into The Cause.

The Master is an intriguing piece of cinema. It’s unusual in the way it tells its story and perfectly acted, even if it does run a tad too long. But to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to do with it.

The-Master

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