A Big Movie in Eden, Tokyo. Don't Cry.

Big Eden - Successful but lonely New York artist Henry Hart (Arye Gross) returns to Big Eden to care for his ailing grandfather and winds up confronting his unrequited passion for his high school best friend and his feelings about being gay in a small town. As Henry works though his emotions, the townspeople quietly conspire to help him along, until Henry realizes new possibilities for both friendship and romance. Eric Schweig and Louise Fletcher also star.

(rent) This is either a bad movie or a fantastic one. It’s very much RomCom, coming out, small town (that is VERY understanding). In all those ways, it’s kinda of over-the-top cheesy. Which may disgust some people. But if you like cheese, even in a cheesy way (if that makes sense), then this may be up your alley. I found it cute and slightly cringe-worthy. The acting, camera work, etc, are all good, but sometimes things happen and I don’t know if they were cute or not. It’s definitely not a completely realistic story, but it’s kind of adorable and sweet, so I forgave it.

Boys Don’t Cry - Based on actual events, director Kimberly Peirce's powerful, often harrowing drama stars Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena, a transgender person searching for love and acceptance in a small Midwestern town.

(rent) This is a dark, heavy piece that has lots of points that brings awareness to trans issues and the dangers of “passing” as a trans person. I think I would have enjoyed this piece more if it wasn’t based on actual events, as I have a feeling the thing that bothered me the most--a person making god-awful stupid decisions--was pulled from the actual events of Tina’s life. That said, while this is a powerful film, it will probably only sit comfortably on a few people’s shelves: Those who like heavier, darker, edgier movies.

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Eva's relationship with her son, Kevin, has been difficult from the beginning. When the 15-year-old boy's cruel streak erupts into violence, Eva wonders how much blame she deserves for his actions.

(rent) I was kind of mediocre on this one. It draws out the pivotal plot slowly, which isn’t bad, and it does lots of telling in flashback, which again isn’t bad, but together they left me lukewarm. It didn’t help that I felt little to no sympathy for Eva. I think it’s an interesting psychological piece that explores an individual’s and a community’s reaction to a traumatic event perpetrated by one man, but I can’t really recommend it.

The Lego Movie - After being mistaken for the LEGO Master Builder, ordinary mini-guy Emmet is swept up in an urgent quest to thwart the evil plans of Lord Business. Emmet's adventures include daunting challenges and hilarious missteps in this computer-animated epic.

(rent/buy) Everyone had nothing but good things to say about this movie, and while I found it enjoyable and rather funny at parts, I wasn’t particularly moved by it. The creative animation style definitely won points, and the plot and deeper meanings were all stellar, but it felt a touch overdone/preachy, probably because it wasn’t particularly subtle about making its points. I have a feeling most people would enjoy watching this and some will fall in love, but it just wasn’t for me.

Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 - (11 episodes) In 2012, Mirai, a middle school freshman girl, goes to Tokyo’s artificial Odaiba Island for a robot exhibition with her brother Yuuki at the start of summer vacation. A powerful tremor registering 8.0 on the JMA scale emanates from an ocean trench and the landscape of Tokyo changes in seconds. With the help of a motorcycle delivery woman named Mari who they meet on Odaiba, Mirai and Yuuki strive to head back to their Setagaya home in western Tokyo.

(rent) This is, as expected, a fairly dark series, but it’s not really dreary or depressing, for the most part, although it has very heavy moments, especially toward the end. However, I would definitely recommend this to almost all viewers, one as an educational element, one as just a powerful reminder of people being the worst they can and the best they can.

One of the nice things about this anime is that it isn’t heavy with cultural references or jokes that the basic viewer won’t get. While some elements may seem odd to the unfamiliar, for the most part people will follow along and still be touched by the story. That said, it still won’t be for everyone, so I’d still recommend watching it before buying it.


How to Find and Train Your X-Men

Geography Club - Looking for a haven from the social hell of high school, the teens in this dramedy form a social club they know no one else will join. Here, it doesn't matter that Min and Terese are more than just friends, or that the quarterback is seeing a guy

(rent/buy) This is a cute film that watches like a YA novel. Not only does it have a heart-warming message, it has a slightly unexpected ending, a multicultural cast, and some twists on characters you wouldn’t expect. This is a piece I’d probably enjoy more in book form, but I’m a reader at heart. The strong cast of actors, good dialogue, and witty lines make this definitely worth a watch.

X-men: Days of Future Past - The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.

(rent/buy) Although there are some issues with timelines, the character development and storyline are fantastic and highly enjoyable. Seeing the relationship differences between Magneto and Xavier as young individuals and having come together again in a challenging world, is an interesting study of both character development and a look at the actors and their different approaches to the characters. Definitely worth a watch for a fan of the series, although like all X-men films, don’t look too closely at the plot as compared to the comics.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 - Five years have passed since Hiccup and Toothless united the dragons and Vikings of Berk. Now, they spend their time charting the island's unmapped territories. During one of their adventures, the pair discover a secret cave that houses hundreds of wild dragons. Hiccup and Toothless then find themselves at the center of a battle to protect Berk from a power-hungry warrior named Drago.

(buy) I was tentative going into this movie because I enjoyed the first one so much. There was no way it could hold up to the original. And in many ways, it didn’t. But it also doesn’t try to. It goes it’s own way and by doing so, holds its own. I think the best part isn’t the story (although it’s enjoyable), but the behavior and information we see in the dragons. Toothless is just as adorable and loyal as ever, and the bond between him and Hiccup is lovely and precious. Definitely worth seeing.

8: The Mormon Proposition - Filmmaker and ex-Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints member Reed Cowan examines that church's nationwide efforts to prevent the legalization of gay marriage -- including California's Proposition 8, which was passed by voters in 2008. Confidential church documents, statements by high-ranking church officials and other sources detail 30 years of efforts to turn back gay rights, particularly by the Mormon-sponsored National Organization for Marriage.

(rent) I didn’t know much about the Prop 8 issue aside from the general news, so hearing the details and numbers related to what happened was eye-opening and horrifying. This was educational, with enough of a personal factor to reach the heart of viewers. This was educational, but a bit of a downer--though there is a positive light that things have advanced since this documentary was made.

The Butch Factor - Director Christopher Hines paints an intimate portrait of contemporary gay culture by asking pointed questions and studying the diverse lifestyles of its members, with the resulting film offering a fresh look at masculinity and homosexuality. Interviewing gay men ranging from rugby players to rodeo stars, Hines also talks to historians, psychologists and sociologists to help identify the similarities in the way gay men view themselves.

(rent) Whether or not you agree with everything this documentary says, it’s worth a watch. I found it to be fairly well-rounded, portraying bother the stereotypical “masculine” and “feminine” gays and their take on the stereotypes in the culture. I felt many deep, meaningful ideas were shared without showing one type as being the better one. I also greatly approved that a transman was able to get a say in this, which is a unique perspective in this topic. This documentary was well put together, and while at points it felt like it dragged (and some people were just saying the same thing as a previous person), each speaker brought something new to the table, so I was never really bored or disinterested.


Reviews: Howling at Dinner While Coming Out

Howl - James Franco steps into the shoes of famed Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in this star-studded biopic centered around Ginsberg's poem "Howl" and the widely publicized obscenity trial that followed its publication in 1957.

(rent/buy) I knew nothing about Allen Ginsberg going into this movie, so it was very educational. It was also well balanced between educational and entertainment. It wasn’t a documentary, but the film is grounded in reality. I would definitely say this is worth a watch, as not only do you learn about the poet, but about important decisions the court made in regards to literature.

Ristorante Paradiso - (11 episodes) Ristorante Paradiso follows the protagonist, Nicoletta, as she comes to Rome from the Italian countryside and becomes an apprentice in Casetta dell'Orso, a restaurant owned by her mother Olga's new husband, Lorenzo, and meets its colorful staff.

(rent/buy) This laid-back anime is a nice watch, although if you’re looking for action, go elsewhere. It’s very much like a slice of life series, where we learn about the different characters in the restaurant, their history, and the growth of the lead character. There are some dark moments, but nothing too heavy (or that is too heavy for too long). Generally a nice, gentle story.

Also, if you’re looking for homosexual subtext, there isn’t much. It’s all very heteronormative, although there are a few hints and open-ended events. This isn’t a bad thing, but I do like some handsome men who want to woo other men. But generally this series was so laid back and focused on other things (even when romance was the focus) that it wasn’t bothersome.

Coming Out Stories - In this Logo reality series, gay men and lesbians go through the process of coming out to their families, friends and neighbors. Each episode features the story of one individual and the challenges and thrills of his or her coming-out story.

(rent) This is probably not a series to watch all in one sitting. Much like most reality TV, the drama is amped up (although considering the setting, not that much). There were eight (I believe) episodes, and while each brought different unique qualities, many of the same feelings/issues were raised. These were of course valid, but watching them all in one night made them feel repetitive.

I didn’t really take much from watching this show, although your mileage may vary. What I found most interesting was the look at how culture and LGBT issues cross, such as in the individuals who were Korean, Jamaican, or Filipino. Mainly it made me think of my own quirky coming out. Also, many of the individuals felt pushed to tell a family member because that family member was ill and probably going to die soon. It obviously amped up the drama for the story, and it definitely pushes the idea that we all run out of time, but mostly it showed me (or stressed to me) that we are all on borrowed time, so live happily. After all, if they can’t accept you, that’s their loss.

Save Me - When young gay man Mark (Chad Allen) hits rock bottom, the well-intentioned Gayle (Judith Light) and her husband, Ted (Stephen Lang), welcome him to Genesis House, a Christian haven for men like Mark to seek shelter and get on the right path -- the straight path. But problems arise when Mark's mentor, Scott (Robert Gant), becomes too intimate, prompting Gayle and Ted to face some uncomfortable realities about love, salvation and human sexuality.

(rent/buy) I think what I really loved about this movie was that it didn’t use a horrible, evil place for Genesis House. Instead, Gayle and Ted run a house for helping. The people there can leave at any time. They want to be there. Of course some feel obligated, and there’s some issues, mainly with family making people attend, but generally they are a nice house that brings people to God rather than forcing or brainwashing.

The relationship between Mark and Scott is lovely and for the most part not physical, which I think is a perfect balance for how Mark begins the movie. The lack of physicality allows their closeness and love to really blossom, which is my other favorite part. Although I didn’t necessarily feel chemistry between the two men, I definitely felt a depth of caring that seemed to go beyond basic chemistry--aka, love. It was lovely and sweet, although some moments were very hard-hitting, relating to drugs and suicide attempts.

A Time to Leave - At the height of his career, a gay fashion photographer suddenly faces terminal cancer in this French drama helmed by Francois Ozon. When Romain (Melvil Poupaud) learns he has little time left to live, he decides to tell only his beloved grandmother of his condition, pushing away everyone else in his life -- his parents, his sister, even his lover. Refusing chemotherapy, he struggles to accept his fate and make the most of his precious last days.

(rent) I didn’t even remember adding this to my queue, so I was surprised I had something so potentially depressing on my list. In many ways, this film wasn’t as sad as I was expecting. Yes, it had elements of melancholy, but it was more introspective than drag you in the dirt depressing. By the end, I felt accepting of the main character’s demise, as I think the viewer is meant to be. This is something worth watching, but I think only fans of artsy films will truly enjoy it.