Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review - As Above, So Below

As Above, So Below falls into the horror box of films that have an interesting premise that allows me to enjoy a film despite its many flaws and ultimately poor execution. While it is unable to completely pull all of its thoughts together into a well-formed coherent shape in its 93 minute runtime, I still find myself landing on the side of defending this flick because I like all of the half-formed notions going on in the background, despite the fact that most of them are never fully developed.

The film's trailer would have you believe that As Above, So Below is faux documentary about a group of archaeologists who venture below the streets of Paris into the infamous catacombs - a massive underground labyrinth, now largely walled off, that was used as a burial site in the 18th century. While down there, they unwittingly step into some sort of a hell dimension that plays upon their worst fears and memories, bringing about psychological torture of the worst kind.

All of that is true, but most of it doesn't really come about until the last 20 minutes of the film. What the marketing left out, is actually one of the things that I found most interesting about the film's set-up. The story focuses on Scarlett Marlowe (Perdita Weeks), an archaeologist obsessed with completing the research of her late father. The research in question is the quest to finally find the famed Philosopher's Stone which was supposedly made by Nicholas Flamel back in the early 1400's. Her findings lead her to Paris, where she is joined by a cameraman (nobody really says why, which is a bit messy), intent on documenting her quest. She convinces a colleague, George (Ben Feldman) to accompany her, recruits a group of bohemian Parisians who have made a hobby out of renegade-exploring the tunnels to be her guides, and off we go.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Review: The Wonderfully Honest OBVIOUS CHILD

Obvious Child is a fantastic little film. For a lot of reasons - it's funny, it's clever, star Jenny Slate is incredibly charming and it's a smart subversion of rom-coms. But more than that - it's brave. It's fantastically honest in a way that most films usually aren't. Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, Obvious Child boldly goes where few films dare tread - abortion. And it dares to do so in a highly entertaining and rather unorthodox way, which is one of the many reasons the film works.

Slate plays Donna, a comedian struggling to figure out her next step after she loses her day job and discovers that her boyfriend has been cheating on her with one of her friends. An evening spent drowning her sorrows sees her meet and hook up with Max (Jake Lacey) - a too sweet to be real, but in a comically adorable sort of way guy who she could never actually see herself with, but is in the right place at the right time. And they have a fun evening together, so she figures, what the hell?

A few weeks later, she finds herself pregnant. She knows that she is not at a point in her life where she can have a baby, and decides to have an abortion. The situation grows even more complicated, however, when Max, who she thought would be a one night stand, never to be seen again, doesn’t quite step out of the picture. The two definitely have chemistry, and Jenny is faced with the question of how and if to let Max in on the situation and her plans.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

SIFF Review: The Babadook

If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t get rid of the Babadook…

This is the promise facing single-mother Amelia (Essie Davis) and her young son Sam (Noah Wiseman). After a car accident killed her husband on the day of Sam’s birth, Amelia has been struggling to hold their lives together amid the fog of grief that just never seems to lift. As the film opens near his seventh birthday, her love for him is constantly tested by his ever challenging behavior.

Sam has a bit of an abandonment issue, needing constant reassurance that Amelia will never leave him, as well as a debilitating fear of monsters. Sam is a constant presence in Amelia’s bed, after numerous searches and sweeps of the closet and under the bed do nothing to calm his nerves and convince him that there are no monsters hiding.

After a bedtime story misfire, wherein Amelia and Sam are introduced to the horrors of Mr. Babadook, a macabre pop-up book from Tim Burton and Edward Gorey’s worst nightmares, Sam takes a turn for the worst, acting out more and more until he is dismissed from school, and Amelia’s sister refuses to allow them near her picture-perfect family after an incident that leaves her daughter injured. This sudden banishment leaves Amelia and Sam virtually cut off from the world, stuck in their home with only each other. In this isolation, Amelia’s emotional state begins to crack, as parenting Sam begins to be a little too much for her. It is also at this point that a dark presence begins to make itself known, and as time goes on, both Amelia and Sam begin to realize that Mr. Babadook was much more than a simple book.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

SIFF Review: Richard Linklater's Spellbinding BOYHOOD

Few filmmakers understand and represent the human condition as gracefully or as well as Richard Linklater. His films are a mirror of our own thoughts and experiences, and he expertly takes common moments in human lives and make them feel truly great. It’s easy to connect with his characters because you see and understand their circumstances and can easily put yourself in their shoes – because you’ve probably been there yourself. Though his eyes, the moments we take for granted become extraordinary. And all of this in a way that makes you understand just how important these commonplace and shared moments really are. These seemingly ordinary events are what make up and define the human experience, and it is through living them that we become who we are. Linklater’s films reflect them in a way that makes us understand how incredible and important they are.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

SIFF Review: Frank

Art is a mysterious beast. Everyone loves and appreciates it in one form or another, whether that be paintings, music, film, books, Lego sculpture, food, whatever. We are all touched by a piece of art in one form or another. It speaks to us, resonates and makes us feel touched and known in a seemingly impossible way.

And what is more natural than the desire to create something that inspires others in the same way that you were inspired? To want to be the one who creates something that resonates deeply with millions of people and has staying power and significance. Is the desire to create enough? And how do you bridge the gap between desire and commitment to finding the inspiration to actually make something that matters?

Monday, June 2, 2014

SIFF Review: I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

It’s impossible to imagine my childhood without Sesame Street. I watched it every day – usually twice a day! It was a formative part of my early education – before I had even entered school. It gave me the building blocks of what I would eventually learn, taught me important life lessons about friendship and sharing, and introduced me to some of the most amazing characters that would stay with me long into adulthood.

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney is an incredible documentary that details the career of one of the greatest and most prolific artists of our time. Spinney's might not be widely known, and he may not be recognized when he leaves his house, but the impact that he has had on our culture has been enormous.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Review: Delivery: The Beast Within

I have no interest in babies. I absolutely respect people who decide to take on responsibility of raising and teaching and caring for another human being, but that’s just not where I am in my own life. It’s as simple as that. Unfortunately, society seems to be certain that I’m wrong. Apparently, once women reach a certain point in adulthood, they have nothing left to contribute to the world other than being an incubator. Friends, family, and worst of all, marketing campaigns and the baby industry as a whole have decided that this needs to be my next step, and are hell-bent on shoving it down my throat.

So I really excited when I first saw the trailer for DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN (no sarcasm – I was). The film is a faux documentary meant to be footage for a TLC/Lifetime-style reality show (which I consider to be pretty much the bottom of the barrel in terms of TV content) based around expecting couple Rachel (Laurel Vail) and Kyle (Danny Barclay).