Begin Again (2014)

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For the few and the proud that have seen John Carney‘s Once, fear not because his new movie is just as good if not better.

Gretta (Keira Knightley) moves to New York with her musician boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine) because of his sudden musical popularity and record deal.  After Dave has an affair with a women at the record label, Gretta breaks up with Dave and feels lost in this foreign city.  During the same time, Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a lost, independent record studio exec., drunkly stumbles into a bar and hears Gretta performing her songs in a dark bar and is convinced that she is going to save his job.

With the help of Gretta and other New York musicians, Dan produces and records Gretta’s album live in the streets of New York.

This star-studded cast, which includes Hailee Steinfeld, CeeLo Green and Catherine Keener, seemed a random assortment, but was surprisingly cohesive.  When I saw that Keira Knightley was going to be the lead singer, I was a little concerned.  Even though it is obvious that she is not a natural musician, she still held her own in the movie.  (Fun fact: her boyfriend James Righton, keyboardist for London band Klaxons, taught Knightley how to play guitar.)  Also, I was also interested about Adam Levine’s acting.  Now he isn’t a Marlon Brando, but he wasn’t terrible.  His main redeeming quality was the song Lost Stars, which I still have stuck in my head.

The music, by Gregg Alexander, was a good mixture of indie, folky with a dash of pop.  John Carney often likes to use street musicians with a lot of strings and acoustic guitar and it was definitely present in Begin Again.  The music felt that it was naturally intertwined in the plot as opposed to just plopping down a song in the middle of a sentence, which helped make the movie have a rhythmic flow.

OVERALL: Begin Again is a lovely, movie-musical that makes viewers feel inspired to pursue their big-city dreams.  It is a great, feel-good movie that is perfect for a date movie that doesn’t have quite the predictable, cheesy ending that is excellent for the summer.

4 out of 5 stars

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Blue is the Warmest Color (2012)

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This is one of those movies that will ruin your life in the absolute best way possible.

Seventeen year old Adéle (Adéle Exarchopoulos) lives her life like any other girl in high school:  Goes to class, tries to have a relationship with boys, and goes out with her friends on the weekend.  She leads her life as a seventeen year old usually does until she meets Emma (Léa Seydoux), an artist with blue hair.

Blue completely categorizes someone’s first love experience beautifully.   It illustrates the beauty and pain of a first real relationship making it a perfect coming of age film for females.  This film is just so beautiful and realistic that it can be at times haunting.

Blue became widely known during Canne for its lesbian sex-scene.  There is a twenty, twenty-five minute sex scene where the actresses do not hold back.  I personally wasn’t too bothered by it because I think that it was needed to fully convey the plot line, but none the less, it is very graphic for a younger audience.

Also, the soundtrack is just one of those that you hear in films that are constantly stuck in your head for weeks.  I loved how the film incorporated “I Follow Rivers” by Lykke Li!  This film is currently available on Netflix.

Overall, a beautiful movie that you will be thinking about months after you watch it.  It’s a two and a half hour commitment with only English subtitles, but most definitely worth it.

4 out of 5 stars

Don Jon (2013)

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When I first saw that this was added on Netflix instant watch, I thought “hmmmm why not?”  I mean, from the trailer the movie appeared to be this indie comedy about couples arguing, getting into a huge fight, and finally realizing their differences and getting back together in the end.

Boy was I wrong.

Don Jon is a movie staring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who is also the writer AND director) as Jon, a New Jersey boy who is obsessed with three things: his body, his religion, his apartment, getting laid, and his porn.   Jon meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) at a club and is convinced  that she is the one.  The problem is that Jon is addicted to watching porn at all times of the day, which is a deal breaking for Barbara.

Again, at first I thought that this was just going to be a typical movie where the boy upsets girl, girl and boy get into argument, boy and girl are happy in the end (Side note: the movie does not end like this, so I pinky promise I’m not spoiling anything).  However, there were a ton of thematic elements that made the movie so much more complex than that.  The movie talked about gender roles, sex in society, and family dynamics that made you think about the movie a week after you watched it.

This movie is currently available on Netflix Instant and is only an hour and a half, perfect for your day off at work.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the plot change and it definitely exceeded my expectations.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Short Term 12 (2013)

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Behold: This is the next movie you should add into your Netflix “My List” (or as the older Internet generation calls it: The Instant Queue).

Short Term 12 is a stunning, Indie movie about caregivers of a residential home for children in the foster care system.  Short Term 12 perfectly describes the lives of teenagers that have grown up in foster care and the difficult life situations that they have faced. Brie Larson plays Grace, the main caregiver who is having internal struggles about her personal life and her boyfriend, Mason (John Gallagher Jr.).  The emotions demonstrated in this movie hit right at home to the point that it is hauntingly accurate.

Short Term is about an hour and a half long so it is perfect for a lazy afternoon.

You will laugh, you will cry, and you will leave this movie with a better sense of understanding because of this coming-of-age movie.

Overall:

Definitely my favourite Indie movie that I have seen this year.

4 out of 5 stars