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A Movie a Day, Day 97: Soul Kitchen

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A Movie a Day, Day 97: Soul Kitchen

After his last two brilliant and emotionally demanding feature-length fiction films, Head-On and The Edge of Heaven, it’s nice to see Fatih Akın kick back and relax, but I suspect he enjoyed making Soul Kitchen more than I enjoyed watching it.

Soul Kitchen shares a lot of ingredients with Head-On and The Edge of Heaven: All three have a respectful but nuanced view of family relationships (family ties in an Akin movie are as likely to strangle as to save you); a bone-deep understanding of the cross-cultural pollination that has transformed Europe and Akin’s own family (his parents emigrated to Germany from Turkey); and a strong score, flavored by techno in The Edge of Heaven, punk in Head-On, soul music here, and traditional Turkish music in them all. They also use a lot of the same actors, most notably Head-On star Birol Ünel, who has a scene-stealing supporting role in Soul Kitchen as a temperamental chef, and the film’s co-writer and star Adam Bousdoukos, who had a cameo in Head-On.

But this time, Akin dials down the emotional intensity and amps up the fun to write a lighthearted love letter to his native Hamburg’s hip Wilhelmsburg section (no, New Yorkers, the name isn’t part of the joke). Bousdoukos plays Zinos, a shaggy-haired mensch whose Soul Kitchen restaurant is a magnet for mooches, musicians, and impromptu all-night parties. The communal Alice’s Restaurant feel to the place and its neo-hippie owner give the movie an appealing energy that’s boosted by the funky music and propulsive cuts, though the balance tips from trippy to tipsy when the filmmakers play with a fisheye lens.

Soul Kitchen wants to be a light comedy about a good guy who gets a series of bad breaks, but uneven pacing and too many too-thin plot threads make it feel episodic and disjointed. Too many situations are too clearly included just to set up musty bits, like the funeral where Zinos knocks over the coffin, or the breath mints an evil capitalist is forever popping into his mouth, which inevitably lead to a plot-altering sight gag. We don’t see enough of the chef, since a subplot about how he revamps the restaurant’s lousy menu peters out halfway through the film. We see too much of the greedy false friend (Wotan Wilke Möhring, who looks like Anderson Cooper’s evil twin) who’s plotting to buy out Zinos’s restaurant, and of the old man who rents space from Zinos but never pays up (Akin regular Demir Gökgöl). Then there’s the subplot about Zinos’s convict brother and the three love stories—at least one too many to care about—involving Zinos or his brother. And there’s Zinos’s slipped disk, which provides some laughs for a while but eventually hurt me almost as much as it did him.

Comedy is hard, and Akins hasn’t made a funny movie since film school, as he told an Australian paper. Maybe he just needs a little practice to get as good at comedy laced with drama as he is at the reverse.

Elise Nakhnikian has been writing about movies since the best way to learn about them was through alternative weeklies. She is currently the movie reviewer for TimeOFF. She also has her own blog, Girls Can Play, and a Twitter account.

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Let Your Sanity Go on Vacation with a Trip to the Moons of Madness

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

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Moons of Madness
Photo: Rock Pocket Games

The announcement trailer for Moons of Madness opens with an empty shot of the Invictus, a research installation that’s been established on Mars. The camera lingers over well-lit but equally abandoned corridors, drifting over a picture of a family left millions of kilometers behind on Earth before finally settling on the first-person perspective of Shane Newehart, an engineer working for the Orochi Group. Fans of a different Funcom series, The Secret World, will instantly know that something’s wrong. And sure enough, in what may be the understatement of the year, Newehart is soon talking about how he “seems to have a situation here”—you know, what with all the antiquated Gothic hallways, glitching cameras, and tentacled creatures that start appearing before him.

As with Dead Space, it’s not long before the station is running on emergency power, with eerie whispers echoing through the station and bloody, cryptic symbols being scrawled on the walls. Did we mention tentacles? Though the gameplay hasn’t officially been revealed, this brief teaser suggests that players will have to find ways both to survive the physical pressures of this lifeless planet and all sorts of sanity-challenging supernatural occurrences, with at least a soupçon of H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism thrown in for good measure.

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

Rock Pocket Games will release Moons of Madness later this year.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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