If I’m being completely honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I saw The Legend of Tarzan on opening day. I didn’t know if the CGI would be cheesy, if Alexander Skarsgård was the right choice for the lead role, if they would put Edgar Rice Burroughs’ beloved book through a wood chipper, or if Margot Robbie would get along well with the phrase “period piece.”

What would you do if you found out you were dying? Would you extend your life by any means possible? Or would you make the most of the time you had left? That’s just one of the issues raised by the short film Beautiful Dreamer which had its west coast premiere recently at Dances With Films.

When I talked with writer/director Alicia Slimmer at the Dances With Films festival about her movie, Creedmoria, she told me it was uplifting. Given the plot synopsis, it was a little difficult for me to believe. From beginning to end, the story is full of tragic events and terrible people. Even while watching the movie, at times, I wondered how a film like this could be considered uplifting, when it puts its protagonist through such hell. Yet somehow, uplifting is exactly what Creedmoria manages to be. Because the focus isn’t on the tragic events or the terrible people. The focus is on rising above those things and realizing that that’s not all life has to offer.

In recent years, there’s been a bit of a stigma against clowns. Rather than the traditional portrait of funny, friendly, silly caricatures whose main goal is to make us laugh, they’re most often portrayed as grotesque, evil monsters. I’ve never liked this hostility towards clowns, particularly since I used to perform as a clown myself, as did my mother. Fortunately, it would appear that I’m not alone in my views. Karen McPherson, the writer/director of the short film Pop, feels much the same way and said so during a Q&A at Dances With Films, where the film screened recently.

It’s the ultimate sci-fi love story. A man tells the woman he’s seeing that he’s from the future. Not only that, but the whole reason he came back in time is to be with her. He saw a picture or a glimpse of a woman from years ago and fell so in love with her that he gave up his life in the future and traveled back in time just to win her heart. Variations on this theme have been done in movies ranging from Terminator to the highly underrated Happy Accidents. It’s also the plot of the short film Future Boyfriend which had its west coast premiere recently at Dances With Films—only with a slightly different twist on things.

In this special holiday blog, Fanboy Comics Contributor Ellen Tremiti shares her Top 10 Perfect (Offbeat) Holiday Movies.

 

10.) Reindeer Games: A guilty-pleasure holiday movie. Need I say more? There’s a bit of a convoluted plot mixed into this sensual thriller, but, honestly, who cares? Bundle up under the covers and check out the acting talents of Ben Affleck and Charlize Theron this holiday season.

9.) Die Hard 2: Christmas Eve + an airport + a blizzard + terrorists who have taken control of said airport’s communication system X Bruce Willis = an action-packed holiday film with lots of thrills and holiday spirit! Don’t forget the fight scenes on a moving airplane wing and, of course, an explosive, fiery finish to cap off this second enjoyable installment in the Die Hard series.

The Dish and the Spoon played at AFI Fest 2011. It is a wonderfully indie film with characteristics similar to the “Mumblecore” movement. Mumblecore is an indie film genre that came about at the turn of the century. Its defining characteristics include low production value, character-driven stories, unconventional plots, middle class/twenty-something characters, naturalism in performances, and improvisation. All of these attributes are found in The Dish and the Spoon, and its star, Greta Gerwig, is no stranger to the genre. Although written and directed by Alison Bagnall, both Gerwig and English co-star Olly Alexander have “additional material” credits, thanks to the improvisational nature of the film.

For the second year, I was fortunate to attend a world premiere gala at AFI. Last year I saw Black Swan, and this year I saw J. Edgar, a film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Dustin Lance Black, who won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2009 (Milk). J. Edgar boasts a huge cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Judi Dench, and Armie Hammer (The Social Network). The film follows the life of J. Edgar Hoover, the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Hoover sought a war against gangsters, he influenced the implementation of forensics in criminal cases, his achievements in forensics affected the Lindbergh trial-of-the-century, and his warped views on Communism affected a generation. Also, he very well may have lived his entire life as a closeted gay man. A life this controversial and important to American history begs to be told on the big screen; yet, this is precisely why it is so very disappointing and surprising just how amateur, monotonous, and sluggish this film turned out to be.  

I was first introduced to The Hammer, previously titled Hamill, at AFI Fest 2010, where the film took the Audience Award. I met some of the crew and cast at an AFI reception honoring their win, and I was instantly struck by the passion the filmmakers and actors had for this film. The Hammer is a family-friendly, based-on-a-true-story, underdog-sports-story, and it opened last Thursday in limited theatrical release.

Coming-of-age films have a tendency to skirt clichés and follow predictable character and plot arcs; however, if done right, a bildungsroman can still feel new, and it can evoke empathy from its audience. Unfortunately, The Art of Getting By (previously titled Homework) does none of these things. The select redeeming scenes and character performances are vastly overshadowed by the underwhelming plot. Sadly, the story gets caught up in cliché after cliché which builds to a predictable and unsatisfying outcome.  

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