In what could possibly be the best sci-fi film of our generation,… MoreIn what could possibly be the best sci-fi film of our generation, Coherence functions on such a high level of intellect and creativity that it is impossible not to love. What starts off as a simple party amongst friends becomes a thrilling and terrifying analysis on personality and morality, with a few quantum physics thrown into the equation (no pun intended). It's a beautiful and deeply philosophical film that isn't afraid to explore the dark dark side of humanity and ego, and it without a doubt demands more than one viewing.
If you're in the mood for an excruciatingly dull shitfest starring… MoreIf you're in the mood for an excruciatingly dull shitfest starring Thor trying to be smart for over two hours, has Michael Mann made a film for you! Highlights: Viola Davis being a sarcastic bitch, as usual. Chris Hemsworth staring off into the distance, pretending he has a brain.
Kidnapped for Christ is one of the darkest and most emotionally… MoreKidnapped for Christ is one of the darkest and most emotionally tormenting documentaries I have ever seen. The events depicted and questions raised in this documentary are unlike any other and have lasting effects long after the credits have begun to roll. The documentary begins with various individuals being interviewed about the disappearance of David, a teenager from Greeley, Colorado. Friends, teachers, and neighbors all discuss their suspicions behind his disappearance, including the lies that were spread by his family pertaining to his whereabouts.
This is followed by interviews with children who were forcibly taken from their homes in the middle of the night, with strangers breaking down their doors and telling them nothing except that they were being taken to a school in the Dominican Republic, as their parents silently watched. The children were told they had no choice, and if they refused, they were tied up with belts and dragged from their homes.
After this ominous introduction, we meet the documentarian, Kate Logan. Logan was the only Evangelical Christian in her family and attended a Christian college after graduation, where she studied film and participated in mission trips around the world. This led her to the Dominican Republic, where she learned of a small, Christian boarding school named "Escuela Caribe" that claimed to rehabilitate troubled teens from the United States in an attempt to bring them closer to Christ. Logan states that she initially set out on this journey to document the positive effects private schools such as these may have on troubled children. What she discovered, however, was much more haunting than what she could ever have expected.
Logan begins the documentary by stating that she hopes to discover truth and see how this trip will align with her faith in God. She arrives at Escuela Caribe and meets the directors and instructors of the institution, who all seem cheerful and friendly, singing gospel songs and telling the teens their goal is to "restructure and rediscipline their lives, which are in disarray." The director of the community, David Wier, states that Escuela Caribe is a Christian therapeutic residential boarding facility. The wordiness of this location is a red flag in-and-of-itself, bordering on what a cult might sound like, yet Wier validates the necessity of this community by the manner in which it helps straighten out the lives of troubled kids.
Logan continues by interviewing counselors, officers, and staff at the location in an attempt to figure out how this place came to exist. She learns of the founder, Pastor Gordon Blossom, who experienced similar residential treatment in his youth as a juvenile delinquent. We then learn why exactly this "private school" is located in the Dominican Republic. Blossom believed that culture shock was a necessity for rehabilitation, calling it "culture shock therapy," in which taking a child's security from them and placing them in a land with a different language, different food, and different ambiance is seen as a necessity to make the child feel uneasy and alone, therefore giving them full control over the child. Parents are the ones responsible for signing up their children for this private school, where tuition is $72,000 annually. To put things in perspective, this is $10,000 more than Harvard. The staff in the community claims these children are only sent when their situations at home are severe or wholly unmanageable, calling for dire circumstances. A child's typical stay is from 18 to 24 months.
The journey through Escuela Caribe becomes even more chilling when you hear the reasons some of the teens were sent to the location in the first place. One teenage girl discusses her issues with panic attacks going untreated, leading to an attempted suicide. Another discusses having been raped and neglected by her family, finding security in drugs and shoplifting. David, who was discussed at the start of the documentary, was sent because of his homosexuality and the intolerance of his parents.
Logan expresses her surprise about the teens in the community. Where she expected to find hardened criminals, she seemed to only find troubled and misunderstood kids. Escuela Caribe soon begins to have the look and feel of a cult, with the children repeatedly chanting "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world" and being forced to follow daily routines and assignments, down to having the ends of their beds folded at a perfect 45 degree angle or setting perfect spacing between their hung clothes. They are disciplined through excruciating exercise routines, total restriction of any social contact with anyone in the school, being forced to stand facing a wall for hours on end, or given "swats," which are beatings delivered with a wooden paddle or a leather belt. Those in charge of looking over the students tell them not to burden them with their "emotional problems," because it gets in the way of productivity. Most teens in the school claim they are doing anything and everything they have to do just to get home. They are in a constant state of terror because every word they speak and action they commit has a consequence. The severity of the physical and emotional abuse these teens experience becomes much darker and unsettling as the documentary continues, and it is relentlessly enraging. Logan's dismay is poignant and unsettling, and you can hear the pain in her voice as she learns this place was not at all what she expected it to be.
In one of the most heart-wrenching interviews of the film, David discusses everything he misses from home: sitting by a piano or playing guitar and singing; talking to his friends; playing with his dog. He is clearly distraught as he tries to hold back tears, reminiscing about "the old days." Furthermore, David is punished with full restrictions for attempting to contact his friends back home, simply to let them know he's alive. David admits that he feels rejected by his parents and the staff at the community, stating that he feels as though he always has to put up a front that isn't his true self and is never truly able to open up. He says he has to hide behind a mask where he can never express who he is, causing a lot of repressed emotional pain. It is at this point that we begin to ask ourselves, does David, or for that matter any of the other teens forced to reside here, really deserve this sort of isolation and punishment? How could something so vile be done in the name of Christianity?
Logan is deeply discomforted with how the students are being treated in Escuela Caribe. She begins to questions everything the school stands for, and by extension, her own faith. She prays in search for answers, but the juxtaposition of her faith and the faith instilled by this school are too alarmingly different for her to fully comprehend. Escuela Caribe is not a good or beneficial place. It is socially, emotionally, and physically tormenting to those who are forced to attend it and nothing good has come of it. In Kate Logan's own words, "After all this, it became very clear to me that this so-called therapy was doing more harm than good." It is a place where you are forced to believe what is imposed upon you, and if you do not, there will be violent consequences.
Kidnapped for Christ is a deeply distressing, heart-wrenching, and enraging documentary. It is a clear depiction of abuse of power and a perversion of Christianity. It is a look inside a godless community parading with the idea of God. Logan is a true revelation as a documentarian, capturing not only the emotions of the tormented youth but her own during her experience. She is unrelenting, even after she is threatened with legal charges from Escuela Caribe and David's parents if and when she chooses to release this documentary. The horrors of places such as these are described with distressing accuracy by an ex-student of Escuela Caribe: "It's crazy how they would twist the words of the Bible just to make themselves sound legit. What they were doing was not right. I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. Not a day."
Kidnapped for Christ is now available for streaming on iTunes, Video on Demand, and Showtime On Demand. For more information on the documentary and stopping abuse in adolescent residential programs such as Escuela Caribe, visit kidnappedforchrist.com.
Set in 1960's Poland, Ida follows a young, orphaned nun named Anna who… MoreSet in 1960's Poland, Ida follows a young, orphaned nun named Anna who is near taking her vows in her Catholic convent. However, prior to taking her vows, Anna is advised by her Mother Superior of an existing relative she must visit before taking her vows, as a form of familial closure. Anna then visits her only living relative, Wanda, who juxtaposes Anna's innocent and reserved nature with her loud, drunken, and crude behavior. Anna is told of her true familial roots, learning that her real name is Ida Lebenstein and that she is, in fact, Jewish. Determined to trace back her lineage and find the graves of her family, Ida and Wanda begin a journey into their past, finding both beauty and heartache in their world set in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Presented entirely in black and white and shot with breathtaking artistry, Ida is a visually poetic masterpiece. Adata Trzebuchowska encompasses the role of Ida with, beauty, finesse, and a pure look of innocence as she begins to experience both the elegance and tragedy of the world for the first time. There is a deep internal struggle in Ida as she attempts to find her individuality through her lineage, her faith, and the nature of the outside world through her experiences with her aunt, and every emotion is felt and seen with subtly in Trzebuchowska's actions and expressions. She is captivatingly delicate, even in her silence, as we try to decipher the constant ponderous look in her eyes. As a newcomer to Polish cinema, Trzebuchowska is mesmerizing and alluring every moment she is on screen, and she inarguably has an overwhelming amount of potential in her future cinematic endeavors.
In what is perhaps one of the most metaphorically mind-consuming and… MoreIn what is perhaps one of the most metaphorically mind-consuming and cinematically astounding films of 2014, Birdman excels in its unique storytelling and symbolic undertones on the current state of humanity and entertainment.
Michael Keaton's talent and wit are unmatched as Riggan Thompson, a man struggling with his inner demons as he attempts to make his comeback in a Broadway production. However, it seems Riggan will always live in his own shadow for having played the infamous role of "Birdman," a blockbuster comic book adaptation he starred in twenty years prior to this.
The film is presented in one long, continuous shot, giving it a dizzying, maze-like effect akin to Keaton's state of mind as he constantly doubts himself and his mental stability. Every scene in the film is filled with thematic meaning, from its surreal imagery to its unnerving score. The film is also a fascinating character study on vanity, self-doubt, and fame, along with numerous other thoughts that buzz through Riggan's head-portrayed with comical perfection in voiceover form.
Ultimately, Birdman is a gorgeously stylistic and dense piece of cinema that demands to be analyzed and interpreted upon viewing.
It has rarely been so enjoyable to watch the life of a jaded cynic… MoreIt has rarely been so enjoyable to watch the life of a jaded cynic fall apart as he insults and loses all the people closest to him. Philip, played with uncanny brilliance by Jason Schwartzman, is a rudely uncompromising writer living in the shadow of the popularity of his first novel. However, as the publication of his second novel doesn't go as smoothly as expected, Philip becomes as insultingly unrelenting as ever, making it impossible to empathize with him yet making it impossible to look away.
Elizabeth Moss shines in her role as his tormented girlfriend, Ashley, having to deal with his incessant rants and self-loathing temperament. Philip attempts to realign his personal perspectives by leaving Ashley and befriending one of his literary idols, Ike Zimmerman, who is almost equally as emotionally dissociated and self-absorbed as Philip. Zimmerman invites Philip to live with him in his country home as Philip teaches creative writing at a local liberal arts college, and the duo seemingly live for any bit of misery and deprecation they can gripe about.
The nihilistic undertones of the tale are palpable, and yet Listen Up Philip remains to be a highly entertaining and comical experience, proving that even the most insufferable characters can be the most pleasurable to watch.
In light of so many dystopian films as of late, Snowpiercer has been… MoreIn light of so many dystopian films as of late, Snowpiercer has been one of the few to make a truly profound statement about the injustices of politics and inequality rather than survival in a post-apocalyptic world.
The film takes place in a world that has entirely frozen over, with the remaining part of humanity aboard a massive train named "The Snowpiercer." Even on board this train, there is a class system in place, with the poor living in the back quarters of the train and the rich living towards the front, in a much more lavish environment.
Chris Evans delivers a spectacular performance as Curtis, a man labeled a lower-class citizen on board the train and forced to reside in the rear section. Curtis and a crew of other determined survivors violently fight their way through each segment of the Snowpiercer in an attempt to reach the front, intending to attain control of the engine to realign the social status that has been wrongfully imposed upon them.
Above all, Snowpiercer is a breathtaking and thrilling tale depicting a fight for equality despite dire circumstances, and it is philosophically and politically profound from start to finish.
David Cronenberg's directorial work is always a much-anticipated and… MoreDavid Cronenberg's directorial work is always a much-anticipated and entirely unexpected journey, and Maps to the Stars is no exception.
Filled to the brim with A-listers, from Julianne Moore to Robert Pattinson to John Cusack, Maps to the Stars is a dark yet satirically relevant film about the state of Hollywood and the thirst for fame in a morally obsolete era. The film follows the Weiss family in their envious and self-obsessed quest for fame, showing the horrific and psychologically tormenting lengths they are willing to go to for celebrity status, and yet the film never loses touch with its humor and outlandish societal impressionism.
Maps to the Stars is a visually stunning, jadedly inhumane, and psychosexual piece of art that one can expect from Cronenberg, and it is absolute supremacy as a commentary on the cynicism and narcissism of our modern age.
Lars von Trier is by no means a conventional director. From Antichrist… MoreLars von Trier is by no means a conventional director. From Antichrist to Melancholia to his newest psychosexual piece of cinema, Nymphomaniac, von Trier has proven he can create some of the most artistic yet highly unsettling ambiances in film.
Comprised of two parts, each spanning the length of two hours, Nymphomaniac is a film that, quite simply, delivers what the title promises-it is a film about a woman who has struggled with sexual addiction her entire life. However, it presents this theme with such sharpness, beauty, and sorrow, that it is easy to look past the almost pornographic and bacchanal nature of the film to find its true meaning.
Nymphomaniac begins by leading us down a dark alley where we meet the protagonist of our film lying unconscious on the snow-covered cement, bruised and bloodied. A man named Seligman finds her and takes her into his home to care for her after she expresses apprehension about being admitted to a hospital. Seligman inquires about her injuries and we begin to learn more about our protagonist, Joe, and her deep sense of self-loathing and cynicism about life. Joe, however, finds it difficult to put her story into words, due to its length and density. Therefore, she uses physical objects and metaphysical concepts around Seligman's apartment to outline her tale. There is heavy use of symbolism in the film as Joe recounts her appalling story of sexual addiction, and she is vulgar and tenacious as she outlines the discovery of her sexuality and its destructive progression throughout her life.
Nymphomaniac is dark, unfiltered, and tragic, but it is inarguably a thematically dense and significant film about loss and the despairing struggles of personal demons.
The Babadook is arguably one of the most cerebral and effective horror… MoreThe Babadook is arguably one of the most cerebral and effective horror films ever created, and it is a film that lingers with you long after it is over.
The film has received much acclaim for its atmospheric and macabre storytelling, following a mother and her son after they discover what appears to be a children's book named Mister Babadook. It becomes clear after reading only a few pages that this is far from a normal bedtime story, and the child becomes immediately traumatized by the idea of Mister Babadook coming to haunt him. The film builds slowly but surely in intensity, outlining the fine line between paranoia and psychosis.
The Babadook is not only hauntingly suspenseful and nerve-wracking, but functions also as an analysis on the relationship between a single mother and her son, particularly in terms of the psychological effects of a traumatic loss. It is dark, terrifying, and most of all, an important film when it comes to understanding love, loss, and all the calamities that endure between the juxtaposition of the two.