The East stars indie darling Brit Marling (Arbitrage, Another Earth) as Sarah, an operative for a private intelligence firm. The firm instructs her to infiltrate a group of eco-terrorists who target major corporations. She locates the group members, who live in an abandoned house in the woods, and she attempts to join them. Each cult member has their own reasons for turning into extremists, which includes Izzy (Ellen Page, Inception, Juno) and the group leader Benji (Alexander Skarsgard, True Blood).
One of the hallmarks of a really good drama is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. From the Q&A session after How to Follow Strangers at the Dances With Films independent film festival on Monday night, it’s clear that writer/director Chioke Nassor doesn’t take himself too seriously. Not only did he come up wearing a tiara with colored flashing lights, but nearly every question was met with a silly answer before he gave the real one. He invited the audience to come and buy him drinks at the Roosevelt Hotel after the screening, and generally seemed to be a fun, down-to-earth guy. At the same time, it was also clear from the Q&A session that Mr. Nassor loves what he does and really cares about this film and the team that helped him put it together, which is a hallmark, not just of dramas, but of any really good film.
ReCalculating, which was screened at the Dances With Films independent film festival in Hollywood on Sunday, is a funny, lighthearted short film that provides a wry look at our society’s addiction to technology. It centers around Paul (Yuri Lowenthal, Ben 10), a young professional who's looking for love, and lunch, with the help of his smartphone. His phone, however, seems to know better than he does what it is he actually needs. Think Siri with a sarcastic streak. She sends him on a quest through the streets of Los Angeles to find the perfect girl, Anna (Tara Platt, Lowenthal’s real-life wife). All the while, Paul remains exasperatingly oblivious.
Lotti Pharriss Knowles, the writer/producer of Chastity Bites, is a self-professed horror nerd, and it shows. The film, which had a midnight showing at the Dances With Films independent film festival in Hollywood on Saturday night, both honors and sends up a lot of classic horror tropes and conventions. The result is a fun, campy horror/comedy that’s both genuinely funny and genuinely scary.
Way Down in Chinatown is bizarre and often incomprehensible. Sometimes shrill and discordant, sometimes uncomfortable, and sometimes discombobulating. These aren’t criticisms of the film, merely observations. It was designed to be all of these things, and quite a bit more.
Automotive, playing Saturday evening at Los Angeles’ “Dances With Films” festival, is an ambitious project. It’s a neo-noir, shot entirely in and from the protagonist’s 1964 Mercury muscle car. That alone is enough to make the film worth a look. But, there’s more to Automotive than that. Writer/director Tom Glynn has crafted a smart, gripping thriller that’s satisfying and fun.
I fantasize about getting drunk with Joss Whedon and reading Shakespeare.
I realize the brashness of this statement is slightly jarring, but this is the honest truth. Ever since my little, Whedon-obsessed brain first read that Joss would, on occasion, invite cast members of Buffy to his home for informal Shakespeare reading shindigs, I have desperately wished to bear witness to one of these epically artistic and bacchanalian (perhaps only in my mind) events. Whedon’s latest release, a modernized, black-and-white film take on William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, might be nothing more than a single, concentrated drop of the joyous nectar that is a Whedon Shakespeare reading, but that “single drop” is still one of the most elegant, charming, hilarious, and, of course, romantic films of the year.
A little over a year ago, I interviewed filmmaker Will Prescott as he set out on an ambitious Kickstarter campaign. He wanted to raise the majority of his budget through crowdfunding in order to produce and direct his first feature film . . . and that’s exactly what he did! Check out Fanboy Comics’ original interview with Will here.
The Way, Way, Back stars Liam James as Duncan, a young, quiet teen grappling with identity issues and lacking a strong sense of self. To his detriment, his mother Pam (Toni Collette) is in a semi-serious relationship with Trent (Steve Carell). Yes, this time around, Steve Carell basically plays a jerk. Trent lacks a strong sense of self, like Duncan, but as an adult, he uses his status to talk down to Duncan and pretty much everyone around him. Despite Duncan’s lack of enthusiasm on the matter, he, his mom, sister, and Trent head down to Trent’s beach house for a hopeful summer of relaxation and fun.
Mud is the latest film written and directed by Jeff Nichols. Nichols wrote and directed 2007’s Shotgun Stories and 2011’s Take Shelter (one of my favorite Sundance movies from that year). Nichols has proven that he understands character, and Mud, a true bildungsroman, is no exception. Two impressionable teenage boys living in the rural South discover a fugitive hiding out in marshland, and they agree to help reunite him with his true love.