It’s all too rare to find a film that genuinely comes alive; a film that’s realism is so rich that every sense and feeling is sparked. To witness a kiss so passionate on screen, or a touch that resonates so strongly it makes your skin tingle, that’s a quality that’s nearly impossible to find in a work of art. And yet, here, in the most unlikely little gem of a film, we find just that.
La vie d’adèle, a film better known as Blue is the Warmest Color, has been praised and chastised alike for an abundance of reasons. Above all other controversy lies one thing: sex. Art is no stranger to the bodies of two (or more even) intertwining for the sake of love, warmth, or plain entertainment, and yet here we find ourselves again with the same situation. With Blue though, there’s something different. I will not say that claims of cartoonish sex are unwarranted, as the film’s second sex scene between couple Adèle and Emma – scissoring away into the night with moans that only porn stars can deliver – is exactly that. Yet, such a minor fault, a mere misstep can almost be excused, when the bigger picture, and the bigger sex scene, is looked at closely.
Not since Fellini have foreigners and Italians alike been able to experience such an explicit vision of Rome; a vision that so surreptitiously captures a world so many experience, but so few can put into words. This, Paolo Sorrentino’s Rome, is a world away from the one established on film over half a century ago. The Great Beauty presents us a glimpse into this modern Rome through the eyes of one man: Jep Gambardella.
While Sorrentino’s style is infinitely different to that of Fellini, it’s impossible to deny the similarities in plot that The Great Beauty and La Dolce Vita share. The journalist, the eye-opening beauty, the waifish plot, the critique of Italian society and religion, and the search for some semblance of happiness; it’s all there, but its presentation is an all too different picture. By no means is Jep the same man that Marcello was and that’s exactly what makes this film just as fascinating in its own special way.
It’s amusing that, in a film so populated by ice cold hearts and landscapes, one would find such warmth and beauty. Frozen, in so many ways, is a Broadway musical in the body of an animated film. It’s sweeping, emotionally charged, and ultimately, all about the music.
Entirely unlike the story it’s meant to be based on, Frozen is the tale of two sisters, Elsa (Menzel) and Anna (Bell). Elsa was born with the gift of bringing forth winter, a gift she regards as a curse, after injuring her sister in their youth and being forced to remain away from her throughout the years. When it comes her time to take the throne in her father’s place, Elsa finds that trying to hide her powers from the world is much harder than just concealing her frozen touch with gloves.
June and Casey. Casey and June. Casey. June. June and Casey. Girls. Please. What happened? I can’t remember at what point in Ass Backwards it hit me that I was watching a bad movie, but it hit me. It hit me harder than life hit Kate and Chloe, the characters of the film, repeatedly, for nearly an hour and a half. And that’s really the whole movie right there. Or at least that’s how it feels most of the time.
Ass Backwards is, in all actuality, a film in which June Diane Raphael and Casey Wilson play two broke best friends (Kate and Chloe) taking a cross-country trip for the sake of reliving their pageant days. After failing in their youth, it’s time they prove to themselves and the other gals that they’re real winners. There’s no denying that the synopsis sounds like it should have been renamed Romy and Michele’s Pageant Reunion: Electric Boogaloo, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing if Raphael and Wilson had any idea how to capture the fun of a flick as wacky as that one.
A director like Claire Denis is a rare one; a filmmaker who loves to introduce scene after scene without giving the audience an ounce of information to properly place said visuals. To some, this is brilliant. To others, this is frustrating. In all reality, it’s exactly this style of storytelling that makes her, and her latest film Bastards, so damn interesting.
There’s something about the lifestyles and romances of people in the public eye that people find oh-so fascinating, especially when they come in the form of a period piece. The world is no stranger to films focusing on famous figures and their scandalous affairs; just look at the recent works My Week With Marilyn and W.E. about Monroe and Wallis Simpson respectively. The sad fact though is that most of these films, frankly, are not that good.
Enter: Diana, The People’s Princess. A woman once so loved by the world at large even though she was considered an embarrassment by her family. Now, over a decade and a half after her death, comes a tell-all film about her tumultuous relationship with the heart surgeon Hasnat Khan in the last years of her life. One might think a film about the Princess of Wales might actually be something rather interesting. There’s a lot to focus on when it comes to her family, her husband, and her humanitarian work, but Stephen Jeffreys adapts Kate Snell’s supposed biography to play out like something you might find in a trashy romance novel. Seriously.
Of all the works of film and television that feature the narrative conceit of time travel, so few manage to get it right. Those that reside in a realm that isn’t heavy on the sci-fi atmosphere are even rarer. Yet, in comes Richard Curtis, a man who has delivered some of the most popular romances of the last decades, with a little film about learning to love life as time goes by.
It’s that life-affirming quality that separates Frances Ha from anything Noah Baumbach has ever done, and so much of this is because of Greta Gerwig. She’s always delightful to watch, from Damsels in Distress to even Arthur, and she embraces comedy in all of its glory. The physical stunts are just as entertaining as the witticisms that come out of every character’s mouth, further giving the film that good old, sometimes awkward, Woody Allen quality. It isn’t only her acting that makes the film, as her writing complements Baumbach’s naturalism perfectly, reinforcing the beautiful heart of the movie. You can see she doesn’t take herself too seriously and refuses to sugarcoat life for the sake of comedy, which is exactly why it does such a fine job at capturing what it’s like to be a young woman in your twenties discovering yourself.
Brandon Darby’s story starts off rather innocently in the documentary “Informant,” with a mistrust of the government that led him to becoming a sort of white savior for much of post-Katrina New Orleans. “I’m trying to foment radical social change. That’s what we’re trying to do,” he says, working to stop racists with guns, rebuilding houses and becoming a symbol of the sheer power of radical activism.
Almost instantly, after traveling to Venezuela and seeing the state of turmoil there, Darby’s opinions on his activist ways make a full 180 turn. It is here that his life takes him to the FBI, where he becomes an informant for them and his story really begins.
“Informant” gets its point across pretty early on–the moment that Brandon Darby says, “As much as it seems crazy that a revolutionary would work with the FBI at some point, under the particular circumstances, I don’t think it’s that crazy.” From that point on, the documentary tries its hardest to both prove and disprove that.
It’s hard to take a step into a politically-charged thriller these days without hearing someone or other spout out George Orwell quotes more than once as part of some anti-government motivation. When watching “The Fifth Estate,” you can feel this desperate longing to rally against Big Brother, but frankly, it’s a film Big Brother would switch off for someone whose secrets are a little more interesting.
“The Fifth Estate” is a film entirely focused on the lives of Julian Assange and Daniel Berg, two men intimately involved with the well-known site WikiLeaks. A story like this clearly lends itself to a digitally modern presentation, but for some reason, Bill Condon doesn’t find himself adapting to the tech-savvy universe he hopes to showcase.