"'She is an enchantress!' cried Bertalda; 'a witch, that has intercourse with evil spirits. She acknowledges it herself.'" We can always trust in German filmmaker Christian Petzold to make an interesting film no matter what. Undine is his latest feature film, following his acclaimed film Transit from two years ago. It is indeed based on the classic fairy tale of the same name, originally a German novella written by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué in the early 1800s. The story is about a water spirit named Undine, who marries a knight named Huldebrand in order to gain a soul. The classic romance has been updated in modern times (see: Colin Farrell in Ondine) about a water spirit who must return to the water at some point in her life, usually related to being in love. And in Christian Petzold's Undine, her story also involves a great deal of romance.
Doesn't matter if it's man or machine, you can fall in love with anything. And that's okay. Jumbo has one of those crazy weird concepts that either shouldn't work at all, or seemingly fits right in with the rest of The Asylum's ridiculous filmography. But, somehow, it works. Which ultimately is a testament to writer/director Zoé Wittock and her skills as a filmmaker. Jumbo originally premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and also played at the Berlin Film Festival. And it damn well deserves to be in both of the fests because it's a uniquely original, surprisingly serious, and impressive feature about a French woman who falls in love with a theme park ride she calls "Jumbo". It's yet another new fresh twist on the classic 80s coming-of-age romance, with a few cliche moments that end up being fun because it's not any human partner she's chasing.
This is one of the most beautiful documentaries I have ever seen. Without a doubt. I need to start with that statement. Everyone's personal definition of what is "beautiful" is different, but I think this is one time we can all agree that this film is objectively beautiful. Little Girl is yet another festival film that I can't get out of my head, and will likely never forget, for a number of beguiling reasons. The way the filmmakers tell this story so sensitively, with so much care and with so much integrity and so much reassurance, is part of it. But it's also just a staggering film about one young girl who is beautiful inside and out. And the filmmakers are telling her story so that we can learn from her, so that we can push society forward by learning to evolve our compassion. And push us to step away from toxic stereotypes that have plagued this planet for far too long.
Actor and screenwriter Leigh Whannell and director James Wan changed the horror landscape when their low-budget sleeper hit Saw became a cultural phenomenon in 2004. After the massive success of their feature debut, the Australian filmmaking duo continued to collaborate on a series of horror films, including Dead Silence (2007), Insidious (2010), and Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013). In 2015, while Wan was behind the wheel of Furious 7, Whannell made his directorial debut with Insidious: Chapter 3, which he also wrote. His next feature, the kinetic cyberpunk sci-fi actioner Upgrade, ended up as my favorite movie of 2018. Now, the talented writer / filmmaker tackles his biggest project yet with a modern retelling of The Invisible Man, inspired originally by H.G. Wells' 1897 novel and James Whale's classic 1933 film of the same name.
"It's a sad and stupid thing to have to proclaim yourself a revolutionary just to be a decent man." What kind of world do we live in where being decent is an impossibility? That's the question this film answers. I had a good feeling about this beforehand, but it still exceeded my expectations in every possible way. I will never forget watching this at a packed press screening at 8 o'clock in the morning at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival. Burhan Qurbani's Berlin Alexanderplatz is an utterly phenomenal film, an astonishing work of profound cinema and empathetic storytelling that hit me deep in my gut. It is an epic saga in the life of one man, and one of the best examinations of modern Berlin and the way the city treats immigrants. It may be three hours long, but all of it is vital. There is not a single frame or any specific scene in this I would change.
Almost every person I know has had that feeling. The bloodcurdling, anxious feeling of someone watching them. No matter what, you'll always feel shivers down your back and an unsettling atmosphere that doesn't want to leave. Elisabeth Moss' character in this movie, Cecilia Kass, knows precisely how it's like to be watched at all times. The Invisible Man, based on H.G. Wells' novel, and written & directed by Leigh Whannell, brings the new meaning to that feeling. Cecilia seems to have everything. A beautiful, modern house, a generous husband, a dog. Still, something makes her abandon her life in the middle of the night. After endless psychological and domestic abuse, a distressed woman leaves her husband (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), and finds refuge at her friends' house (Aldis Hodge). But the nightmare only begins. Left with PTSD and depression, Cecilia is still tormented by what seems to be a ghost of Adrian. The woman must convince her friends and find a solution before the man (or whatever he is) utterly destroys her and her life.
The iconic Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson passed away with a few years ago, but he has left us with something timeless and extraordinary – an awe-inspiring work of cinematic brilliance, both aurally and visually. Last and First Men is a 70-minute documentary feature that Jóhannsson originally created as a visual piece to accompany his live concerts. The finished "documentary" film was put together by Icelandic producer Thor Sigurjonsson and Norwegian cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, and it has just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival – two years after his death. Maybe it helped that I was deliriously tired (film fest exhaustion) when I watched this but… This is one of the most entrancing cinematic experiences I have ever had. I feel like I stopped caring about time and was completely lost in the footage and the music and the words. My mind melded with the screen on this journey. I loved every last second of this experience.
This film is one of the finest discoveries at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival. Mogul Mowgli is an outstanding gem of a film, made authentically by genuine artists giving it their all. It's a remarkable relief to come across a film so surprising yet so entirely refreshing and engaging, that's an unforgettable experience to watch, and I can't help but rave about it when this happens. Mogul Mowgli is one of my favorite surprises at Berlinale this year. A few of my colleagues mentioned it as a film on their schedule and I looked it up, saw that it stars Riz Ahmed as a rapper, and decided to give it a look. I have high hopes that the film will find an audience outside of the film festival circuit, and connect with many people. It doesn't matter where you come from or what religion you follow, this film is about an artist wanting it all struggling with the painful realities of life.
I would really, really like an oily biscuit with honey and a touch of cinnamon after finishing this film. Please. First Cow is the latest feature made by American filmmaker Kelly Reichardt (of Old Joy, Meek's Cutoff, Night Moves). After initially premiering at the Telluride & New York Film Festivals last fall, it has made an appearance at the Berlin Film Festival this year showing as a European premiere in the main competition section. Set at the beginning of the 19th century in the rural Northwest (mainly in Oregon), the film is about a friendship and successful local business started by two lonely misfits. It's not just a film about a cow, it's not just a film about friends, and it's not just a film about the Northwest frontier. It has so much depth and heart and humility, an entirely wonderful film. I think I loved it, to be fully honest, which even surprises me.
It is always important to shine a light on stories that remind us of the power of journalism. Not only about all the hard-working, courageous people committed to reporting the stories, but also about the impact it can have on the world. It also goes without saying that photojournalism is just as powerful, if not even moreso sometimes. One image can change the world. This is the ultimate value of this particular film, and the true story it tells. Minamata tells the story of renowned American photographer W. Eugene Smith, who went to Japan in the early 1970s to photograph the inhabitants of a small town being poisoned by a careless, greedy chemical corporation that had a dangerous factory there. It's a very moving, earnest film about the power of photography and the tenacity of journalists. And it won me over big time, unleashing all kinds of emotions.
This is the wacky, weird, wild story of a goofy cartoon frog that became an anti-hero meme in the age of the internet. Feels Good Man is much more than a documentary about "Pepe the Frog". It's a documentary about this dangerous modern society we now live in, and how things have gotten seriously out of hand. It's a documentary about the internet, and how it has allowed billions of people to take control over anything they want, twisting stories and hijacking ideas to suit their own desires, their own ideologies. It's about how you "can't put the genie back in the bottle." It's about how hard it is to fight back against mob mentality fueled by the internet, and how hard it is to defend yourself since we seem to have reverted to the wild west online. Feels Good Man is, without a doubt, one of the best documentaries from the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
Created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, Harley Quinn first appeared in Batman: The Animated Series in September of 1992. A psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, Dr. Harleen Quinzel was seduced by the Joker into becoming his crazed, mallet-wielding partner-in-crime. 24 years later, the fan-favorite villainess made her big-screen debut in 2016's Suicide Squad, portrayed by Margot Robbie (seen in Bombshell, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, I, Tonya). While that movie, about a team of supervillains saving the world, was an incoherent and aggressively dull mess, Robbie's memorable performance all but guaranteed that we would see the character on-screen again. Enter Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, in which Harley leads her very own girl gang into battle against a Gotham City crime lord.