Tag Archives: romance

Spring (2015)

12 Nov

Life is not good for Evan. He is wanted by the law, unemployed, and on the run from a pair of criminals who want a violent payback from a bar fight. His mother, the only family he had, has recently passed from cancer, and his best (and only) friend is in a useless state of constant intoxication.

Left with little options, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) decides to run from his problems by taking a one-way flight to Italy, giving him a chance to catch a much-needed break and think about the oncoming phase of his life. It’s while working on a farm in Italy that Evan soon falls for a mysterious unnamed local girl (Nadia Hilker) and the two form an intimate and off kilter relationship.

This is the set up for Spring, an unconventional but thoroughly engaging European love story. Filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead (who collaborated before on the 2012 thriller Resolution and a segment for V/H/S Viral) share directorial duties on the film with Benson writing the provocative screenplay.

It’s instantly obvious that Pucci and Hilker share an impressionable chemistry, and the rich but naturalistic dialogue between the two characters gives life to the film. These characters feel real and fleshed out, unlike many of the two-dimensional leads that populate the genre. Benson’s script boldly explores many different areas of Evan’s story, jumping between idealistic romance, nostalgia, philosophy, suspense, and at times, Cronenberg-esc body horror.  This kind of awkward genre-blending usually results in something cringe-worthy (see Pucci’s 2005 suburban drama/Donnie Darko-ripoff The Chumscrubber), but fortunately, Moorehead and Benson’s film works so well as a whole it’s futile to focus on its many disjointed parts.

Some impressive visual effects work and beautiful cinematography by Moorehead gives Spring a haunting visceral impression and the synth-laden score by The Album Leaf is near-perfect. Though many will inevitably be put of by the more pretentious aspects of its philosophical and biological twists, it’s hard not to be immersed in the story Moorehead and Benson have created.

Bottom Line: Led by a pair of outstanding performances, an impressive script, and an aesthetically vibrant atmosphere, Spring is this year’s must-see romance story.

Rating: 8/10 

Film Recipe: Before Sunrise + Charlie Countryman + I Origins  

Diary of a Teenage Girl (Sundance 2015)

25 Aug

Very few themes have been examined more in teen cinema than that of sexual maturation and puberty. From classic films like Stand By Meto contemporary ones like Superbad or last year’s Boyhood, film culture seems to be obsessed with capturing that moment where children start see the opposite sex in a different light. Rarely though, are they done so skillfully through the eyes of a female protagonist, which is what makes Sundance Film Festival entry Diary of a Teenage Girl such a refreshing delight.

Our lead girl is Minnie (played by Bel Powley), a 15 year-old girl raised in the hippie culture of 70’s San Francisco. Raised by her single mother Charlotte (Kristen Wiig) who has since divorced Minnie’s father and is seeing a new man by the name of Monroe (Alexander Skarsgard). The film quickly establishes that Minnie has just lost her virginity to Monroe, and the two form an unconventional and highly toxic relationship that fuels the drama for most of the film. Minnie’s newfound sexuality serves as her inspiration to start an audio journal, wherein she chronicles her sexual exploits and thoughts about life in general. As you can imagine, dating a man 20 years older has its share of compilations, especially when he is also dating your mom and you are still in high school.

While intensely uncomfortable at some moments, Minnie’s adventure is told so delicately and expertly by writer/director Marielle Heller (who, up to this point has been mostly known for her acting work in the underrated Liam Neeson vehicle A Walk Among The Tombstones) that it becomes hard not to fall in line with Minnie’s innocent view of what a romantic fling entitles her to. In her mind, dating her soon-to-be stepdad is perfectly natural because the two genuinely love each other, and according to Minnie “loving someone means you touch them all over”.  In the film’s first act Heller is arguably justifying a pedophilliac relationship, and we see how idealistic and good Minnie and Monroe are for each other. Later on however, Heller expertly shows us the complexity and devastation that comes with heartbreak.

The film’s plot does get weighed down a bit in the third act by a few unnecessary moments which tragically put the brakes on the free flowing and enthusiastic pace of the first half. Heller knows she has a great story on her hands, but perhaps she became a little too enthused about telling us how it ends. There is also a lot of crude animation that some people will really fall for, but I thought it was just a distraction.

Diary of a Teenage Girl is a superbly crafted and deeply affectionate film; you get a sense the story is intensely personal to Heller but still conveyed well enough so it’s instantly relatable to a wide array of viewers. Soft lighting and incredible production design reflect the youthful optimism and rebellious independent spirit of the 70’s.  It’s easy to see how this film took the Best Cinematography Award at the Sundance Awards Ceremony – every frame is overflowing with a romantic and dreamlike idealism. Bel Powley, a British theater actress, is absolutely fantastic in one of 2015’s biggest breakthrough performances.

Bottom Line: While a widespread theatrical run might not be on the horizon (I can’t imagine many megaplexes are looking for a film this unrelinquishing about such a taboo topic), Diary of a Teenage Girl deserves to be seen by many though VOD or some other platform where it will resonate with a large audience.

Rating: 8/10 

Film Recipe: Fish Tank (2010), +  It Felt Like Love (2014),  + Blue Is The Warmest Color (2013) 

The Loved Ones (2009), The Warriors (1979), Thirst (2009), Lolita (1962)

20 Feb

I’m going to try and update this thing more regularly, even if it’s just a quickie review of something I have seen recently.

I’m also going to try and talk about classics as well as some of the newer stuff I get my hands on.

What I have been enjoying this past week:

The Loved Ones (2009)

– Holy smokes. what a twisted movie. It is not everyday you see a teen horror film that is so chilling, disgusting and fun.  After seeing last year’s Snowtown, I know for certainty that when it comes to the disturbing and macabre, Australians do it best. While it has it’s cliche’ moments and becomes a bit predictable, there are enough twists and WTF moments to make this stand out among others of the genre.

Similar to: Hostel,The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Snowtown

Rating: 6/10 

The Warriors (1979) 

– I finally got around to seeing this cult classic and, while it is a bit slow at first, The Warriors was an overly entertaining and satisfying movie. The stylized story about gangs in a post-modern NYC goes places I wasn’t expecting and the ending was fantastic. Also a huge fan of the film’s score and wonderful costumes.

Similar to: A Clockwork Orange, Brick, 

Rating: 7/10

Thirst (2009) 

I absolutely loved this movie.  Park Chan-wook is no doubt one of the best directors working today, and he demonstrates his knowledge and passion for filmmaking perfectly in Thirst.  The story revolves around a priest-turned-vampire who is desperately trying to tame his appetite for bloodshed while at the same time helping a family in need. The film is incredibly unpredictable and beautifully shot. If the thought of blood grosses you out, you are better off avoiding this entirely, but if you have a thirst for the dark and disturbing – of if your tired of seeing the same old vampire movie – give this one a go. You won’t be disappointed.

Similar to: Let The Right One In,  Oldboy,

Rating: 8/10 

Lolita (1962) 

Finally managed to see Stanley Kubrick‘s iconic romance story about a man who falls for his landlord’s daughter.  Lolita is a superbly-writted drama and overall great film (but with a mastermind like Kubrick, what can you expect?).  The performances felt real and the characters are complex and interesting. Though it clocks in at over 2 hours the film never drags and you become immersed in the riske’ relationship between our protagonists.  I couldn’t help but thinking the entire time “how did they get away with filming this in 1962?”

Simmilar to: Eyes Wide Shut,  The Apartment, The Graduate 

Rating: 9/10 

so thats that. Any recommendations you have let me know! 🙂

Amelie (2001)

30 Nov

Amelie tells the story of a French twenty-something year-old girl.  She fantasizes about many things including dipping her hands into a bag of grain and cracking fresh creme’ brûlée’ with a spoon. Trapped somewhere between a naive childhood fantasy and the impending responsibility of adulthood, Amelie’s life takes a turn when she (though rather unknowingly) falls in love.

Amelie, as a film, is a montage of sorts about the small pleasures of life. Like watching a laughing baby or a litter of puppies, the film is an enchanting delight that is easy to get immersed into.  There is something universally charming about Amelie, both her character and the world in which she lives.  The colorful characters and remarkable production design give the film an animated vibrance that was unlike anything I have ever seen.

Some say this is a romance film done in the style of Woody Allen, others will point to the dark comedies reminiscent of Wes Anderson, or John Hughes.

I liked this film best for it’s wonderful use of music, story, cinematography and performances which really leave a lasting impression.  Technically, Amelie is flawless, but it’s the emotions and vibrance of the film which make it a mesmerizing and overall enchanting piece of cinema.  One of my all time favorite French films.

rating 10/10 

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

20 Sep

You pretty much know what your going to get with a Wes Anderson film these days.

Offbeat situational comedy,

bright colors,

fast-paced dialogue,

romance,

witty characters,

Bill Murray playing “the old man”…

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and an overall quirky tone have become staples of his directing style.

Moonrise Kingdom polishes up everything that makes Wes Anderson great and presents itself in a humorous and charming 95 minutes.

The film takes us on a journey to an unknown island where two lovers happen to cross paths at a church’s stage adaptation of Noah and the ark. Visually, this film is amazing, mostly thanks to Anderson’s clever use of color, mis en scene and deep space. The set pieces are incredibly detailed and work wonders for the film.

Moonrise Kingdom is genuinely funny with an all-star cast, but it doesn’t let humor or celebrity get in the way of it’s real nostalgic and child-like wonder.

rating 9/10 

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