Cinema365 is taking a well-deserved and much-delayed vacation. The site will be down until February 12th; the next two Weekly previews will be skipped. We’ll be back on the 12th, however, with more reviews and more fun. See you back here then!
(2018) Documentary (Abramorama/1091) Ofra Bloch, Rassam Ajamin, Raneen Jeries, Basel Alyazoum, Samah Jabr, Mohamed Dajari, Johanna Rodenstab, Horst Hoheisal, Alaa Shebada, Anja Behm, Ingo Hasselbach, Thomas Casagrande, Alexander von Plato, Hussain Mbarkhi, David Bloch, Zoe Sloan, Audrey Jacobson. Directed by Ofra Bloch
Can a victim become an oppressor? Is there a difference between the Jewish holocaust and the Palestinian nakba (catastrophe)? Is it possible to forgive systematic oppression?
Psychoanalyst turned filmmaker Ofra Bloch was born in Jerusalem and lives currently in New York City with her husband, a Holocaust survivor. She had been raised to hate the Germans for inflicting the Holocaust on her people; she had also been raised to hate the Palestinians who, it was drilled into her, would bring about the next Holocaust.
She began to become aware that the Israelis had moved at some point from the oppressed to oppressors. Fascinated by this turn, she decided to talk to Germans, Israelis and Palestinians to get their opinions on the Holocaust and the nakba, the forced relocation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes that they’d lived in for generations.
The results are fascinating. It’s not a question anyone wants to tackle; suggesting that the Israelis are being oppressive is often met with accusations of antisemitism. Palestinian activist Samah Jabr puts it like this; “Whenever Palestinians have the conversation with Israelis about the conditions in Palestine, the Holocaust is inevitably brought up.” She also refers to the kind of professional victimhood that she and other Palestinians believe that Israel has adopted.
But it’s hard to feel that way when faced with footage of the horrors of the Holocaust. One Palestinian professor, Mohammed Dajari, was fired for setting up a trip to Auschwitz for his students. An inability to see the other side’s viewpoint isn’t just endemic to American politics.
Bloch comes off sort of like Michael Moore if the gadfly had been born a Jewish yenta. Her questions are intelligent and the discussions are compelling and these are the kinds of conversations that we need to have – but never do. Yes, the movie has a somewhat languid pace and there is a bit of meandering between the interviews – a tighter structure would have been appreciated. Nonetheless, this is one of the most powerful films of the new year and one well worth seeking out, particularly for those who want a different viewpoint of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
REASONS TO SEE: Tackles a question nobody wants to discuss. The interviews are very powerful, very revealing. Really looks at both Jewish and Palestinian viewpoints. Some of the footage is ghastly.
REASONS TO AVOID: Has a very measured pace.
FAMILY VALUES: There are some very disturbing images of violence and torture, as well as archival footage from the Holocaust.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film made its world premiere at DOC NYC 2018. It is only just now receiving a brief theatrical release from Abramorama, followed up by a home video/VOD release by 1091 Studios.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/29/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 83% positive reviews: Metacritic: 66/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Shoah
FINAL RATING: 9/10
NEXT: Quezon’s Game
(2018) Family (Columbia) Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris, Ken Jeong, Jack Black, Chris Parnell, Bryce Cass, Peyton Wich, Shari Headley, Christian Finlayson, Matthew Jose Vasquez, Courtney Cummings, Jessi Goel, Drew Scheid, Taylor Siva, Sydney Bullock, Jason Looney, Kendrick Cross, Deja Dee. Directed by Ari Sandel
I always look askance at a young adult author whose book series is described as a “phenomenon.” The only audience more fickle than adults are kids. Phenomenons come and go with the regularity of Trump tweets.
In this sequel set in the universe of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series, two young would-be entrepreneurs (and middle school students) Sonny (Taylor) and Sam (Harris) unexpectedly find an unfinished Stine manuscript in a creepy old house and free Slappy, the malevolent ventriloquist dummy (voiced by Mick Wingert) is brought to life. At first, all he wants is a family of his own, which makes Sonny’s big sister Sarah (Iseman) suspicious although their single mom Kathy (McLendon-Covey) is blissfully unaware that the dummy is sentient. When Slappy is ultimately refused, he decides to get himself some revenge – by using his magic to bring to life Stine-influenced Halloween decorations and turn the sleepy upstate New York own into perpetual Halloween.
The movie doesn’t compare favorably with the first one; although Black (as author R.L. Stine) is in the film, he doesn’t show up until the very end in what is a glorified cameo, although he does set up a Goosebumps 3 should Columbia elect to make one. A little more Black would have gone a long way, but to be fair he was busy making a competing film and was unable to participate fully in this one.
That leaves us with the kids to carry the film and quite frankly that’s not something they’re capable of quite yet. Their performances are inconsistent and frequently wooden. Still, the movie does okay thanks to some fairly nifty special effects and the character of Slappy who makes a delightful villain for the younger set.
REASONS TO SEE: Slappy makes an outstanding kidflick villain.
REASONS TO AVOID: A little bit too much like the first.
FAMILY VALUES: There are mildly scary sequences, rude humor, some light profanity, and images of monsters and creatures.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Jack Black and Madison Iseman were both in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle but unlike here, they didn’t share any screen time together.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AMC On Demand, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Microsoft, Movies Anywhere, Netflix, Redbox, Vudu, YouTube.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 1/29/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 48% positive reviews: Metacritic: 53/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The House With a Clock In Its Walls
FINAL RATING: 5/10
BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH
Birds of Prey: and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
(Warner Brothers) Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ewan McGregor, Rosie Perez. The most memorable character from Suicide Squad finds herself a new team, the all-female Birds of Prey who are based in Gotham and take on the nefarious Black Mask. Harley Quinn, though, is the wild card in the proceedings. February 7
OTHER WIDE RELEASES TO WATCH FOR
Fantasy Island, February 14
Ordinary Love, February 14
Sonic the Hedgehog, February 14
Brahms: The Boy II, February 21
Call of the Wild, February 21
The Invisible Man, February 28
And Then We Danced
(Music Box) Levan Gelbakhiani, Bachi Valishlivi, Ana Javakishvili, Giorgi Tsereteli. A young man, training to make the Georgian National Dance Ensemble with his partner Mary, is thrown for a loop by the arrival of a rebellious male dancer with near-perfect form who causes him to question the conservative mores of Georgian society and puts his relationships with his partner and family at risk.. February 7
(NEON) Riley Keough, Richard Armitage, Alicia Silverstone, Jaeden Martell. A woman is snowed in a remote Northern lodge with the children of her fiancée as frightening phenomenon and spectres from her past begin to make themselves known. February 7
Legend of Deification (Jiang Ziya)
(Well Go USA) A Chinese warrior is given the task by the Gods to execute the Nine-Tailed Fox Demon, despite the fact that in doing so this will destroy an innocent girl whose soul is linked with the demon. The warrior is faced with a terrible choice; do what the Gods command, or do what’s right. February 7
(IFC) Alexi Pappas, Nick Kroll, Gus Kenworthy, Morgan Schild. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, an Olympic athlete at the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea finds confidence and love in an unassuming team dentist. This is the first feature film to be allowed to shoot in the Olympic Village during the Games. February 14
(Focus) Anya Taylor-Joy, Josh O’Connor, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth Wealthy Emma Woodhouse is the alpha female in a small English village during the Regency era. Eager to get her married off, her parents arrange match after match, all of which are disastrous. She must navigate her way through in order to find the love that was right under her nose. Based on the Jane Austin novel. February 21
A White, White Night
(Film Movement) Ingvar Eggert Siggurdsson, Ida Mekkin Hlyndsdottir, Sara Dogg Asgeirsdottir, Bjorn Ingi Hilmarsson. An aging police chief begins to suspect that his late wife was having an affair with a local villager in their native Iceland. His obsession with finding out the truth will put himself and his loved ones at risk. February 28
(101 Studios) Forrest Whittaker, Garrett Hedlund, Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wilkinson. When the Ku Klux Klan opens a museum in a small South Carolina town, an idealistic pastor tries to keep the peace – even as he works on the Klan’s Grand Dragon to disavow his violent, racist past. Based on a true story. February 28