Problem of Evil provides an interesting look at religion and faith from a number of different perspectives. The film follows Jason (Ethan Kogan, who also co-wrote and co-directed the film with Jessica Silvetti), a documentary filmmaker who’s struggling to deal with the loss of his wife. While doing a piece on a community garden, the woman who runs it—whom he’s never met—shocks Jason by relating to him some of the intimate, personal details of his life. She tells him that she’s part of a religious group, and that their spiritual leader told her years ago that Jason would be the one to carry the group’s message to the world.
She Loves Me Not, which premiered Sunday on the closing night of “Dances With Films,” tells three separate stories of a man in crisis. Or is it one story, in three parts? Either way, it features Cary Elwes as an alcoholic writer, so it’s hard to go wrong.
Mutual Friends, which had its Los Angeles premiere at the Dances With Films festival in Hollywood on Friday night, is an ensemble cast romantic movie, with separate stories all intertwining, similar to, say, Love Actually. However, unlike Love Actually, which was entirely the work of writer/director Richard Curtis, Mutual Friends has a different writer for each story. They all blend seamlessly together, but, at the same time, it provides a variety of different perspectives on different types of relationships in different stages and situations.
Forever’s End is a small, quiet movie about the end of the world. Sarah (Charity Farrell) is a teenage girl who has spent the last six years completely alone, after everyone around her—and for all she knows, everyone on the planet—was killed by some great, unnamed cataclysm. Then, out of nowhere, her sister Lily (Lili Reinhart) shows up on her doorstep, without a word as to where she’s been all this time, or what’s happened to her. A few days later, a young man calling himself Ryan (Warren Bryson) shows up as well. And, slowly, it becomes apparent that maybe the world isn’t as empty and desolate as they thought.
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.