The Harry Potter series is easily THE go-to franchise billions of fans, leading Harry’s fantastic wizarding world to become more of a mantra and lifestyle for different kinds of people across the globe. It’s a lot to tackle, spanning multiple forms of media, from novels, films, theme parks and even tons of fan-generated content – just look at the numerous youtube videos for proof! One thing is clear though, Hermione Granger was and is always a standout. Like so many other kids, I followed her example and as she showed us that we could all reach our full potential, intellectually and emotionally with blazing confidence and wit.
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: 2014
Director: Shim Sung-bo
Writer(s): Shim Sung-bo & Bong Joon-ho
Cinematographer: Hong Kyung-pyo
Cast: Park Yu-Chun, Kim Yun-seok, Han Ye-ri, Lee Hee-joon, Kim Sang-ho

Country of Origin: South Korea
Rating: N/A
Time: 111 min.
Contemporary Korean films have made a reputation of being the most grim experiences out there, replete with unabashed violence, incest, social inequality, and crime – Haemoo has three of those things! Adapted from a play by Kim Min-jung, it’s about a real life incident that occurred when a Korean fishing crew got mixed up in a botched human trafficking operation. Screenwriter-turned-director Shim Sung-bo’s adaptation is a harrowing film riddled with nail-biting suspense and easily accessible blockbuster conventions.
The film takes place in 1998, when the IMF Crisis made life hard for ordinary South Koreans. The owner and captain of a beat-up boat, Kang Chul-joo accepts a high risk job smuggling ethnic Koreans from China in exchange for enough money to save the ship he’s so desperately attached to. Kang doesn’t bother to reveal his desperate plan to his fellow fishermen until they’re out on the treacherous sea, entrapping them in an inevitably doomed arrangement. While everyone seems on board with the plan thanks to the persuasion of a hefty sum, it only takes one of the crew, Dong-sik (Park Yoo-chun), to fall in love with one of the immigrants, leading him to rebel against Kang and his shipmates.
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If Terrence Malick had a twisted little sister, it would be Josephine Decker; the resemblance is clearly discernible in her sophomore feature, Thou Wast Mild & Lovely, utilizing Malick's uninhibited and experimental handheld style but with her own dash of psychosexual drama. Decker's story is framed against the backdrop of a quiet country farm, and shells out the kind of chills that not even Malick could muster.

In the vein of John Steinbeck's East of Eden, the film follows Akin (Joe Swanberg), a man who's taken a summer job on a farm only to develop an attraction to its owner's daughter, Sarah (Sophie Traub). In what's seemingly an inevitable romance, the pair's physical attraction is amplified by their isolated setting, leading this quaint farm story to pack a ferocious intensity.

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AFI FEST has finally come and gone! AFI FEST has always been on top of their game when it comes to showcasing some of the finest and groundbreaking International and American cinema and this year, they outdid themselves. Highlighting the fest, they had an emotional and long-overdue tribute to the legendary Sophia Loren who has graced the Italian and American screens for generations. I had the privilege of being able to watch just a fraction of the films they had and I am even sad that I was not able to watch EVERYTHING! AFI FEST is a particularly great festival considering that all their tickets are FREE. Yeah, you heard that right, $FREE.99! 

And with that, you have one of the best curated film festivals in Los Angeles that caters to the mainstream and the indiest of audiences! You betcha that I was able to film some stuff while I was there so make sure to check out my film vlog down below! And keep your eyes out for upcoming reviews this week and many more updates on these films because I loved them all so much and everyone must watch them!

Top Five Films:
Girlhood (Dir. Céline Sciamma)
Mommy (Dir. Xavier Dolan)
The Tribe (Dir. Miroslav Slaboshpitsky)
The Absent (Dir. Nicholás Pereda)
Felt (Dir. Jason Banker) (See review)

A Most Violent Year (Dir. J.C. Chandor) B+
Eden (Mia Hansen-Løve) (See interview
The Midnight Swim (Dir. Sarah Adina Smith) B+
Two Days, One Night (Dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne) A
Merchants of Doubt (Dir. Robert Kenner) A
Inherent Vice (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson) B+
Thou Wast Mild & Lovely (Dir. Josephine Decker) (See ReviewA-
Stations of the Cross (Dir. Dietrich Brüggemann) A
Haemoo (Dir. Shim Sung-bo) (See ReviewB+
Tales of the Grim Sleeper (Dir. Nick Broomfield) A
Happy Valley (Dir. Amir Bar-Lev) A
What We Do in the Shadows (Dir. Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi) A
Fish & Cat (Dir. Shahram Mokri) A

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Mia Hansen-Løve’s fourth feature, EDEN, chronicles two decades in the Parisian club scene, starting in the early 1990s. Following aspiring young DJ, Paul (Félix de Givry), from his early gigs at house parties to a life of international travel and then through the waning popularity of garage music in the mid-2000s, the film is filled with both passion and melancholy. Hansen-Løve discusses her inspirations for the film, the importance of staying true to the authenticity of her experiences, and how Daft Punk became a vital part of the story.
AFI: What inspired you to tell this story?
MHL: I had written three films that were all very personal, but I felt like I was at the end of that inspiration. Even though EDEN is inherently a very personal film, I thought I had to explore a new territory. At the same time, I asked myself [how] the film would be about my generation and what it meant to me. That is something I asked myself when I watched Olivier Assayas’ SOMETHING IN THE AIR, because that was about his generation in the 1970s. I realized the music, especially electronic music, was the one thing that was defining for my generation. I had been talking with my brother, Sven – who had been involved in the music scene for 20 years since becoming a DJ at the age of 18 – about making a film about his story. I thought his pathway was very relevant as a way to talk about [our] generation, and its ideals, inspiration and fragility, too.
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It's a rare discovery when a film can materialize the internal terror that women experience on a daily basis so disturbingly close to reality. Blurring the lines of documentary and narrative storytelling, Felt truly is a film that demands to be felt. It accomplishes its goal by penetrating the deepest, most harrowing aspects of trauma to tell one of the most powerful and jarring stories about the female experience and rape culture ever put on screen.

Director and cinematographer Jason Banker follows his 2012 debut film, Toad Road with Felt, co-written by Amy Everson who stars in the film as Amy, a San Franciscan artist recently plagued by a trauma (not explained but certainly sexual) inflicted by the men in her life. As her ordeal unravels emotionally and psychologically, she plunges herself in the world of art as a coping mechanism. 

“My life is a fucking nightmare” are the first words out of Amy’s mouth, a vocal confirmation of her trauma, usually reserved for her performance art. From there, we see her as she caves in on herself, crawling so deep and beyond, it’s unknown where the real Amy starts and ends. She re-appropriates the male form by frolicking in the woods, wearing an anatomically correct muscle suit and trying to re-enact the dominance demonstrated by the men she’s encountered. But it doesn’t stop there, as she continues to embrace their stereotypical brash, lewd attitude outside of costume form. This outlet to reclaim the power taken from her by an unknown attacker is only the beginning of how her mental disintegration manifests. Witnessing her inner battle materialize in outer form further conveys the delusion and terror that Amy struggles with every day, heightening the grim realities and the harsh effects of our gender warped society.
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Badass Femmes is a bi-weekly column that I write on Crome Yellow about all the Badass Females in pop culture that has shaped my life.

For those people who don't know this about me, I'm not a horror film fanatic. Since I'm not well versed in the genre, it's my mission in life to constantly broaden my horizon, whether it's discovering new films at Beyond Fest or somehow finding them on my own. Luckily, I have the expertise of your very own Sal from Crome Yellow to help me. And it was about this time last year when I finally had the nerve to watch a film highly regarded as one of the most horrifying experiences ever, Pascal Laugier's Martyrs. I went in with a gist of what to expect but when I crawled out, it was like I was stripped of my whole existence--reborn, bare, broken and transformed into a person I didn't recognize. that might seem like an exaggeration but those who have witnessed and experienced this singular film will know exactly what I'm talking about. Because like Anna in the story, we become martyrs simply by surviving the film. 

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It's BBBAAACCCKKKKK! The Fast & the Furious films are by far one of  my favorite franchise/series, hands down! How can you deny it's unrealistic action sequences and heart-felt message about friendship and family?! This is a film 14 years in the making and I am incredibly sad that it will end. But at least, it's for sure that they will go off in a HUGE BANG! The whole gang is back (R.I.P. Han) and this time, someone else is out for their blood. And that person is none other than Jason Statham, who is thirsty for revenge against Dominic Toretto and his crew for the death of his brother Owen Shaw (see Fast & Furious 6). 

James Wan is embarking on new genres outside of his usual Horror realms so it'll be real interesting to see what he brings to the table. This will be Paul Walker's last film and I just can't help but be sadden by the tragedy of his death but I'm hoping the film honors his immortal presence in the film to give him a well-deserved farewell! Check out my trailer reaction as I borderline go apeshit. I honestly was shivering throughout the whole trailer reaction as even my body could not contain its excitement! Furious 7 comes out April 3rd! Are you ready?! (Hurry up April!)

Really lovin' this minimal yet straightforward poster!

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As a big fan of Park Chan-wook, I am always excited to see new works by him whether it is features or shorts. And this time, we get all the ingenuity of Park but in a pint-size in a A Rose Reborn, a short film in promotion for an Italian fashion company, Zegna starring Jack Hudson (Boardwalk Empire) and Daniel Wu (Europa Report, Warcraft). The short introduces us to a young CEO who travels across the globe to meet a Chinese investor but stumbles upon a number of riddles and other odd exchanges before they can reach a deal. 

A Rose Reborn is filled with many Park trademarks of vivid and dark cinematography that is filled with a number of chilling and mysterious quirks which eventually transforms the tone to highlight the magically beautiful philosophical contemplation on life. I've only seen one other short film by Park called Nightfishing and this is another rare film that never ceases to amaze in his never-ending ability to tell dense and thoughtful stories that encompass the universal story of the human experience. It was a great move by Zegna to have Park concoct a unique and global story about the journey of discovery and growth that also emphasizes the lifestyle of fashion. 

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Writer and Director Ana Lily Amirpour's first directorial debut feature film, A Girl Walks Home at Night has arrived and it's an entirely different kind of vampire tale than you're normally used to. I first heard about it because it got so much buzz at this year's Sundance Film Festival and then again when it came to L.A. for Sundance's Next Fest. Sadly, I missed it while it was in L.A. but good thing, it is finally getting a theatrical release! The story is centered in Bad City, a ghost-town in Iran that reeks of death and loneliness. The townspeople are unaware they are being stalked by a lonesome vampire 

Vice Films and Kino Lorber is bringing us A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and by the trailer, you can already tell that it's moody, mysterious, and shrouded in some serious sinisterness. Also, we have a female vampire creeping in the dark corners of the night all while riding a skateboard. How awesome is that?! Amirpour has also decided to write a six-part spinoff comic which explores the girl's backstory with art from Michael DeWeese. The comics will be sold digitally through Comixology and then packaged as a graphic novel, both digitally and in print form. I'll be one of the many that'll be fiending for the book till it comes out! See the sneak peek of issue #1 & #2 here! A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night will be released in Los Angeles and New York on November 21st! I'll be there! Will you?

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Nightcrawler is one of my favorite films of this year and I could not be happier to see these new set of incredibly colorful and imaginative alternate posters designed by the friends of the Shortlist. I got to watch Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler, starring Jake Gyllenhaal at this year's Beyond Fest which you can check out my review here! As an Los Angeles native, this film is actually shot on the bright and rugged streets to bring you a unflinchingly thrilling story about ambition, success, with a twist of psychotic-ness. And I promise you, it's worth the manically chaotic ride! These posters are seriously so well-crafted, I might just have to order one for myself! Nightcrawler comes out on Halloween!

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Year: 2014
Director: Alexandre Aja
Writer: Keith Bunin (screenplay), Joe Hill (novel)
Cinematographer: Frederick Elmes
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Kelli Garner
Country of Origin: USA | Canada
Rating: R
Time: 120 min

I saw Alexandre Aja's Horns starring Harry Potter aka Daniel Radcliffe at this year's Beyond Fest. Horns is a highly entertaining love story that entails a murder mystery with horror elements all in one! You can tell that Radcliffe is trying to shed his Potter image and for the most part, he does it superbly! Despite some superfluous scenes and music within the film, Horns continues to bring huge laughs and sincere performances. Although the costuming and make-up was flawless, something about Radcliffe being demonic wasn't as convincing and can easily come off as silly. But nevertheless, this is a great assemble of extremely talented and young actors that complement each other really well! I have not read the book but like so many others, I'm sure the book is better. B-

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The Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer came out and of course I had to give it my reaction! I totally forgot to mention that James Spader is the voice of Ultron!! The whole crew is back with a refreshing addition of Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, respectively. For the most part, it seems like a basic good vs. evil battle. Joss Whedon said he was going to make the sequel have a darker premise that will bring a greater threat to the group and you can get a glimpse of it in the trailer but hopefully further promotion really amps up on the danger of it all. Regardless, this film is going to be one of the biggest blockbusters of 2015! Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out May 1.

*Watch me butcher all the names in this trailer reaction*

Check out the first poster!

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Badass Femmes is a bi-weekly column that I write on Crome Yellow about all the Badass Females in pop culture that has shaped my life.

I don’t know about you, but before Twilight’s vampire craze, I already had a soft spot for those blood-sucking creatures of the night. I mean who wouldn’t? Most people have an affinity for youth and immortality anyways, and although these qualities are top-notch attributes to have, avoiding sunlight and basking in the beauty of the night is a gothic delight too good to pass up. One night I was over my friend Andrew’s place having what already had been a very lanky movie marathon, when it was recommended that we see the acclaimed Swedish film Let the Right One In, a film that ironically almost snuck away and disappeared in the night. 

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Every year when AFI FEST rolls around, I have a massive anxiety attack for fear that I will not be able to watch everything that I possibly can! Good thing this time, my little fit only lasted about 30 minutes while I scrambled to plan out my schedule for this year! Once again, the line-up is stack with breathtaking international gems hailed from Cannes or Locarno, refreshing and hip American Independents, and high profile Gala films! It'll be a packed 8 day festival that will test the endurance down to the very fiber of my bones! There are so many great films playing but I really had to buckle down and make a schedule that will eventually benefit me as a film critic that'll quench my palette for international and independent cinema! Here are all the films I am watching at the festival!

Nov. 6 - Opening Night

A Most Violent Year (Dir. J.C. Chandor)

In the crime-ridden winter of New York City in 1981, a couple’s attempts to capitalize on the American Dream are mired in corruption and violence.

Nov. 7

The Tribe (Plemya) (Dir. Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy)

This daring film, acted entirely in sign language without the aid of subtitles or voiceover, follows a new student at a corrupt Ukrainian school for the deaf.

Eden (Dir. Mia Hansen-Løve)

Mia Hansen-Løve’s 20-year journey through the electronic dance music scene follows DJ Paul, whose love for the turntables stays strong even after the craze has ended.

The Absent (Los Ausentes) (Dir. Nicolás Pereda)

When an elderly man loses his isolated cabin, deep in the Mexican woods, he also loses his grip on reality.

It Follows (Dir. David Robert Mitchell)

A group of friends is plagued by a nightmarish supernatural threat in this coming-of-age horror film from AFI FEST alum David Robert Mitchell.

Nov. 8

On Acting: A Conversation with Michael Keaton & Edward Norton

The Midnight Swim (Dir. Sarah Adina Smith)

Three half-sisters try to unlock the mystery of their mother’s deep-water disappearance in this unsettling tale, part ghost story and part family drama.

Two Days, One Night (Deux Jours, Une Nuit) (Dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne)

The Cannes Palme d'Or-winning Dardenne brothers return with this tale of a young Belgian mother (Marion Cotillard) who must convince her co-workers to forego their much-needed bonuses in order to keep her job.

Merchant of Doubt (Dir. Robert Kenner)

Oscar nominee Robert Kenner’s (FOOD, INC.) latest documentary focuses on the PR masterminds and spin doctors who are paid to shift blame and delay governmental action on climate change.

Inherent Vice (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

Joaquin Phoenix stars in this psychedelic surf noir from Paul Thomas Anderson, adapting the novel of the same name by Thomas Pynchon.

Nov. 9

Thou Wast Mild & Lovely (Dir. Josephine Decker)
In this psychosexual drama, a young farm worker’s attraction to his boss’s daughter unearths dark secrets.

Stations of the Cross (Kreuzweg) (Dir.Dietrich Brüggemann)
Fourteen masterfully composed single-shot scenes tell the story of adolescent Maria, a girl caught between a secular world and the strict religious teachings of her church.

Haemoo (Dir. Shim Sung-bo)

Amid a shroud of sea fog, the voyage of a South Korean boat smuggling a group of illegal immigrants turns into a catastrophe.

NOV. 10

Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes) (Dir. Damián Szifrón)

Characters are pushed to delightfully deranged savagery in this anthology of six sublimely absurd short films.

Happy Valley (Dir. Amir Bar-Lev)

The Penn State child sex-abuse scandal, and subsequent downfall of local heroes Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky, is examined in this insightful documentary.

Girlhood (Bande De Filles) (Dir. Céline Sciamma)

Teenager Marieme drops out of school and finds acceptance with a gang of free-spirited girls, while taking on a new feminine identity.

May Allah Bless France! (Qu'Allah Benisse La France!) (Dir. Abd Al Malik)

French rapper Abd Al Malik adapts his raw memoir chronicling how religion and hip-hop saved him from the streets.

Nov. 11

Saint Laurent (Dir. Bertrand Bonello)

Selected as France’s official Oscar® entry, this stylish biopic follows the life and career of iconic fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent (Gaspard Ulliel), from 1967 through 1976.

The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland)

An amateur butterfly collector and her housekeeper can’t get enough of their sadomasochistic games in this phantasmic tale. 

Nov. 12

Mommy (Dir. Xavier Dolan)

Xavier Dolan’s latest film, selected as Canada’s official Oscar entry, centers on a mother’s tumultuous relationship with her teenage son after he returns home from a correctional facility.

Nov. 13

Foxcatcher (Dir. Bennett Miller)

This true story follows two Olympic wrestler brothers (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) who form a dark protégé-benefactor relationship with an unhinged millionaire (Steve Carell).

So there you have it folks! It's going to be a long and tiring week nonetheless but I'll be there everyday with my trusty camera and notepad in hand scribbling my madness from the fest away! Also look out for my orange hair! AFI FEST will be from Nov. 6 - 13th! So see y'all there!

UPDATED: (Nov. 6)

Nov. 6
A Most Violent Year

Nov. 7 
The Tribe

Nov. 8 
On Acting: A Conversation with Michael Keaton and Edward Norton
The Midnight Swim
Two Days, One Night
Merchants of Doubt
Inherent Vice

Nov. 9
Thou Wast Mild & Lovely
Stations of the Cross

Nov. 10
Tales of the Grim Sleeper
Happy Valley
May Allah Bless France!

Nov. 11
What We Do in the Shadows
Fish & Cat
Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere

Nov. 12
A Tribute to Sophia Loren
Goodnight Mommy

Nov. 13
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