This film is a perfect portrayal of how expansive emotion and… MoreThis film is a perfect portrayal of how expansive emotion and authentic realism can still be made in modern-day American cinema. Julianne Moore and Annette Bening shine in their roles as Nic and Jules, lesbian mothers raising a teenage son and a teenage daughter. Both wives used the same sperm donor for both kids and when their eldest, Laser, reaches age 18, he decides to search for his biological father. This is something his sister refused to do when she turned 18, for fear it would hurt their mothers. The siblings eventually meet their biological father, Paul, and a deep friendship forms between the three. Paul also meets their mothers after they become aware of the situation, and there are mixed feelings between the mothers regarding Paul's presence in the lives of their kids. The Kids Are All Right is a witty and compelling dramedy that makes strong statements about relationships and isn't afraid to make you shed a tear, showing that all marriages have their faults, regardless of gender.
Out in the Dark is easily the most politically important film on my… MoreOut in the Dark is easily the most politically important film on my list, and it is with good reason. This Israeli romance film depicts the cultural boundaries of Israeli-Palestinian laws, such as their anti-gay laws and the corrupt ways in which they murder gay men in the Middle East. We first meet Nimr, a Palestinian student studying psychology and attempting to legally acquire a visa to attend a university in Israel. One night, Nimr escapes to a gay bar where he meets a seductive Israeli lawyer named Roy. They spend the night talking, exchange numbers, and are eventually able to meet again after Nimr acquires his student visa. The Middle East feels like a haunting character all its own due to its violent, homicidal laws and hate-groups against gay men. It is for this reason that Nimr and Roy proceed with discretion and cautiousness as they fall deeper and deeper in love. It is not long before outside forces surge against them, and the two fight for what they believe they deserve to the very end. It is passion, painful, and at utmost a noble film. The political standpoints portrayed in the film are frustrating and angering, allowing one to appreciate the freedom we have in retrospect.
A word of warning: It took me several days to pick myself up off my… MoreA word of warning: It took me several days to pick myself up off my own puddle of tears after watching this film. Keep the Lights On goes well beyond the boy-likes-boy storyline. It progresses as an alluring and intimate story of two charming men, Erik and Paul, meeting and tenderly falling for one another. But their soon-to-be romance tale is contorted by Paul's consistent drug abuse, landing him in hospitals and rehab centers. The damaging struggles they deal with tear at their relationship in this deeply moving yet cynically somber film. Ultimately, its striking realism makes it important viewing.
There are immeasurable reasons this French romance drama film has… MoreThere are immeasurable reasons this French romance drama film has received a great deal of critical acclaim. One can look to the themes expressed in the film, such as prejudices, social class, self-discovery, and the emotional turmoil of a relationship-particularly when it is your first. Others can look to the gorgeous cinematography and artistry of the film, filled with dense metaphors-and yes, of course blue is heavily symbolic. Yet, what makes Blue is the Warmest Color so heartfelt is its delicate sense of realism and truthfulness. It is the tale of Adele's first love for another girl, Emma, and the progression of their relationship over several years. Their relationship evolves with beautiful tenderness, sexual passion, and ultimately, the tumultuousness that comes with true love. Is it a poignantly masterful film that deserves to be watched by all, whether part of the LGBT community or not.
Found-footage horror films are a dime a dozen these days, growing in… MoreFound-footage horror films are a dime a dozen these days, growing in popularity since the first Paranormal Activity film seven years ago and fueling unwatchable copycat mediocrity. The scares are cheap, the storylines are bland, and the originality is nonexistent. Thankfully, As Above/So Below manages to break past these barriers and create a new, atmospherically tormenting energy.
One of the key aspects that makes As Above stand apart is its historical context. It is based on the real-life Catacombs that exist underground in Paris and the history that accompanies these Catacombs, particularly the manner in which it they were used as an underground cemetery and hold the remains of over 6 million bodies.
As Above/So Below is lead by a valiant and uncompromising heroine, Scarlet, whose main goal is to enter the underground tunnels of the Catacombs in search of the Philosopher's Stone-a journey her own father embarked on that resulted in dementia and suicide. With the help of her friends and a mysterious but trustworthy group of French explorers, Scarlet enters the Catacombs in search of the mystical Stone, which she believes holds the key to immeasurable power.
As the group descends into the Catacombs, it is not long before physical obstacles and an overwhelming sense of dread washes over Scarlet and the explorers. They plunge deeper and deeper into the unknown, and the dark mythology becomes palpable through hellishly surreal imagery. Shaky cameras and tightly closed areas make for a very chilling experience, so this is definitely not a film for anyone with claustrophobia or motion sickness.
As Above progresses with subtle intelligence, requiring one to listen to each character's backstory and the manner in which it plays into the film as it progresses. There is a constant, unnerving feeling of hopelessness as the group continues to descend thousands of feet underground in their attempt to escape. Essentially, As Above is a gritty survival film that just happens to step into the boundaries of mysticism and occult-like terror.
As a whole, the film is as cleverly constructed as much as it dark and menacing, despite its somewhat mediocre final act. However, this does not take away from its intensely distressing sequences and hypnotic cinematography. The Catacombs feel like a demonic presence all their own in the film, making the film all the more enjoyable for genre fans.
Of course, As Above/So Below is not a timeless horror classic. It uses typical jump scares and found-footage camera effects that we've all seen before. However, it stands apart as a mythological look into real history, capturing actual imagery of the skulls and bones that lie in the underground tunnels of the Catacombs in Paris. It is graphically dismal yet beautifully macabre, which functions in perfect duality with the frightfully suspenseful nature of the film. Despite its murky repetitiveness and cheap thrills, As Above/So Below is a bone-chilling tale of survival and the inner demons that haunt us, both above ground and below.
Comic book to big-screen adaptations are always tricky, as we've seen… MoreComic book to big-screen adaptations are always tricky, as we've seen with Marvel and DC's recent creations. They have varied from being cinematically gorgeous, full of creative intellectualness, one of each, or neither. Thankfully, "neither" has stayed away from 2014.
The Sin City universe, however, stands apart. It is grim but hypnotically exquisite, told in black-and-white narrations filled with a sleazy nudity and gallons of blood. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and its narratives are magnificently dazzling despite their sorrow, particularly with the film's symbolic use of color throughout.
That being said, Sin City has a cult following, as many enjoy the cinematic beauty and the gore while others are repulsed by the exploitative nature of the films. Ultimately, loving or hating A Dame to Kill For depends on whether you're a fan.
Dame to Kill For, like the first Sin City, is comprised of four narratives. However,
Dame is told in two separate timelines-the past and the present. Essentially, it is narrated in two parts occurring at different points in time, with each narrative focusing on separate groups of characters.
The film includes events that occurred before the first Sin City film as well as the events that occur after the first film ends. For that reason, rewatching the first film before viewing the second is essential. Keep in mind, the first film was released nine ago and deserves a revisit.
We enter the new Sin City installment with Marv, a character killed in the first film. This informs us that we are currently in the prequel timeline. His segment is an intense and bloody statement on morality and justice, slaughtering with the ever-expected gory deaths fans can expect from Marv.
We then enter the sequel timeline, showing us the events that occur after the first Sin City installment. We meet Johnny, a young and well-dressed gambler that believes he can defeat the "unbeatable" Senator Roarke in poker-a very power man in Sin City with an affinity for violence. Johnny is cocky, plays well, and defeats Roarke in a game. Roarke is unfathomably embarrassed and angered, taking out his rage on Johnny. Their narrative builds in suspense and is completed later in the film.
Now, we return to a sequel plot. A man named Dwight is unexpectedly called by his former lover, Ava, who is frantic and fears for her life. Dwight agrees to help Ava by saving her from an obsessive, violent lover. The tale unfolds into one of vanity, sexualization, and deceit. Lies always equal power in Sin City, and this is a grim plot one expects of the City.
Continuing in the sequel storyline, we are reintroduced to Nancy from the first film. She plans to kill Roarke as revenge for his influence in the death of the man she loved-Hartigan. In her plot for vengeance, fans will get exactly what they came for-closure for the first Sin City film.
A Dame to Kill For is fundamentally the Sin City film fans will want. As an avid fan, I sincerely enjoyed the film, despite its predictability. The dazzling contrasts and grisly storylines are a feast on the eyes. However, Sin City 2 exists mostly to please those interested in strange, artsy cinema and die-hard fans. As expected, its shocking and exploitative bleakness is a turn-off for others.
If Boyhood isn't a true cinematic masterpiece, I don't know what is.… MoreIf Boyhood isn't a true cinematic masterpiece, I don't know what is. It is poignantly moving, artistically stunning, and philosophically thought-provoking in terms of how we view our lives and experiences over the span of time. The fact that it was filmed with the same actors aging over the span of 12 years makes it that much more of an extraordinary viewing experience.