There's nothing like watching someone breakdown completely. Wilde Maus, which translates simply to Wild Mouse, is a dark comedy film from Austria which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. Austrian actor Josef Hader makes his feature directorial debut with the film, also writing the screenplay and starring as the lead character, a music critic from Vienna who loses his job after 20 years. The film follows Hader as Georg, who goes bonkers and starts wandering around Vienna trying to make sense of his life after losing the job that kept him focused for so long. He ends up creating some unnecessary problems with his wife, and randomly partners with a guy who wants to run a little rollercoaster at Vienna's Prater amusement park.
Let's make this clear right at the start - this is not another Marvel Studios movie. Logan is a stand-alone, outstanding, one-of-a-kind X-Men movie made for adults. It's violent as all hell, emotional and captivating, gritty and grounded, and exciting to experience. Director James Mangold really hit a home run with this one, bucking the trend and going with his gut to deliver a superb "Wolverine Western". I had to see Logan twice at the Berlin Film Festival before writing this review, to confirm how awesome it is. I haven't enjoyed watching an X-Men movie this much in such a long time, and I'd say this is easily one of the best X-Men movies. It's not really an X-Men movie, but it actually is - there's so much mutant mythology hidden within.
Nothing like watching artists work. Final Portrait is a film directed by Stanley Tucci (of Blind Date, The Impostors, Big Night previously) starring actor Geoffrey Rush playing the famed Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti. If you don't know who Giacometti is, it's better to get acquainted with him and his incredible sculpture work before getting into this film. Final Portrait tells the story of, literally, his final portrait as an artist - a painting he did of an American novelist who was visiting Paris, where his studio was, in the 1960s. The film has a small, intimate feel to it exploring the pained life and quirky antics of a great artist, which is becoming increasingly common these days (e.g. Inside Llewyn Davis, Maudie, Mr. Turner, Love & Mercy).
Imagine if Quentin Tarantino was Chinese and made an animated crime drama. That's kind of what Have a Nice Day feels like, in a way. Have a Nice Day (originally titled Hao ji le in Chinese) is a film from director Jian Liu that just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in the main competition line-up. The animation style is closer to "Archer" or A Scanner Darkly, and the film is sort of a Coen Brothers-esque story about a bunch of people in a small Chinese town who get mixed up chasing a bag of money. There are a few minor political themes, but it's fairly light entertainment, with some fun moments and colorful characters. Oddly enough, this film is better than half of what I saw in competition at the Berlin Film Festival, even if isn't that smart.
"We cross and re-cross our old paths like figure-skaters." That's a line from Cloud Atlas, but I kept thinking back to that film (and that storyline in it) while watching this one. Return to Montauk is the latest drama from German director Volker Schlöndorff, set primarily in New York following a few German characters around the city. It's a very tender, heartfelt film about the great regrets and lost loves in our lives, and how we attempt to get over what happened in the past (or, perhaps, not get over our past regrets). Maybe it's because I connected to it in a very personal way, but Return to Montauk kept me captivated and awake and intrigued from start to finish. Even if I didn't feel emotionally drained by the end I was certainly enthralled.
Vegetarian vengeance! I don't even know how to begin to describe how much I loved this film. Spoor, also known as Pokot originally, is a film from Poland about an elderly former teacher who lives in a small town. She loves her two adorable dogs, but one day they go missing, and thus begins this thrilling story of animal lover vengeance. The cinematography in this film is STUNNING, some of the best since The Revenant, and I really mean that. Along with an incredibly unique score from Antoni Lazarkiewicz, and exceptional lead performance by Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka, this won't be a film you forget. And that isn't even the half of it - there's so much I loved, and even if I can't describe it all perfectly, I hope my enthusiasm is apparent.
This is the first great discovery of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival - it's an excellent film that deserves to break out. Tiger Girl is a low key indie comedy, directed by Jakob Lass, about two women who becomes friends and start taking out the patriarchal trash. It's essentially a "girls fight back" movie and it's so badass and so much fun. Ella Rumpf plays the woman known as "Tiger", a drifter who doesn't take crap from anyone, especially guys; and Maria-Victoria Dragus plays her friend she nicknames "Vanilla", a young woman who fails her entrance exam to the police academy. She's not tough enough, but through this friendship she learns how to kick ass and fight back. It close to being a dark comedy, but either way it's worth seeking out.
The boys are back in town. After 20 years, writer/director Danny Boyle has reunited the four crazy kids from Trainspotting for the sequel - titled T2: Trainspotting. This film isn't so much of a reboot or remake or another wild story of drug trips, as it is a much more somber, sober follow-up looking at how much life has changed since they were young and full of life and didn't give a shit about anything. This film plays heavily on nostalgia, which makes sense considering the first film is so iconic, and yet still has so much to say about life and where it takes us and the dreams we stop chasing. It's a somewhat sad look at how much real life sucks and getting old sucks and things just aren't the same anymore. Where are drugs when we need them?
John Wick can come back any time he damn well pleases. That was the message delivered by the 2014 action hit that not only saw the eponymous assassin returning to his death-dealing ways, it was a return of sorts for the film's star, Keanu Reeves. Keanu is back, John Wick is back, and the film that follows, John Wick: Chapter 2, is a perfect, action-packed, bullet-riddled, blood-soaked sequel. The follow-up does precisely what a sequel should do. It's bigger than its predecessor, and more elaborate than the efficient, streamlined actioner it follows. It isn't necessarily better. That would truly be an impossible task, but John Wick: Chapter 2 delivers on all this new franchise promises, an action extravaganza that keeps us amped for more.
Before The LEGO Batman Movie, Chris McKay (of Moral Orel, Robot Chicken) was best known as the animation co-director and editor of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s 2014 film, The LEGO Movie. His work on the critically acclaimed film earned him the American Cinema Editors Eddie Award for Best Edited Feature Film, Animation, as well as an Annie Award nomination for Best Edited Animation Feature Film. Now, McKay will forever be known as the guy who saved Gotham City’s Caped Crusader from a dark and gritty existence with The LEGO Batman Movie, perhaps the best film based on a DC Comics property since 2008’s The Dark Knight, and maybe the best pure Batman movie since Nolan's Batman Begins (2005).
There was a secret festival favorite at Sundance 2017. That film was Columbus. This quiet drama is Korean director Kogonada's first venture into the feature length realm. He is most known for his video essays on Vimeo, and damn did all of that study of film pay off. Kogonada's Columbus covers a lot of ground in the most elegant gestures and proves Kogonada knows his craft inside and out. From the absolutely exquisite cinematography by Elisha Christian, to the subtle yet powerful performances from lead actors Haley Lu Richardson and John Cho: this quiet film finds its way right into your soul.
Yo, this film is dope. Patti Cake$ (yes, the title is actually spelled with the $ sign) is an original comedy about a chubby white girl in New Jersey who dreams of being a famous rapper. Australian actress Danielle Macdonald plays Patti, a young, impoverished, overweight woman living with her mom and grandmom in "Dirty Jersey". Her best friend is an Indian man, played by newcomer Siddharth Dhananjay, who works as a pharmacist. Together they spend their nights spitting rhymes, catching shows, and strolling the streets of New Jersey with the skyscrapers of Manhattan taunting them in the distance. When they meet a musician known as "Basterd", played by Mamoudou Athie, they realize this might be their chance to make it big.