Thursday, May 26, 2011

2011 MAGA Film Festival

I attended the MAGA Film Festival this year, where I attended a series of film screenings. These are the films and mini-reviews for each one. Here's the link for the full review for one of the movies I attended a screening for, Cuffed, a movie that I was actually in-

Nothing Special (2010) (Comedy | Drama) Starring: Karen Black (Five Easy Pieces). Plot: In her debut feature film, writer/director Angela Garcia Combs spins a dark and funny tale of an ambitious young woman at a crucial turning point in her career and her relationship with her bi-polar mother. Louise (Julia Garcia Combs) is an insurance underwriter living in LA with her mother, May (Black). May's shaky grip on reality begins to loosen when she becomes aware of the close relationship between Louise and her trailblazing boss, Catherine (Barbara Bain). Review: I saw this film at the 2011 Macon Film Festival after being intrigued by the trailer and the element of bi-polar disorder. Karen Black was fantastic, and I really loved the story and the narration. The low budget never detracted from the film. However, the lead performance was uneven. Rating: "Stamped Out but worth seeing". Watch with: Postcards from the Edge

The Violinist (2009) (short) Plot: When a charming, world famous concert violinist comes to town for a concert series, a lonely bag boy attempts to impersonate him in an attempt to improve his love life. Review: Hilarious and surprising. I went in to this film knowing only that it was about a violinist. It was funny and unexpectedly brilliant. I would love this film to be made into a feature length film. Rating: "Epic" Watch with: Chicago

Swing (2010) (animated short) Plot: While enjoying a swing on the roof, an elderly patient is reminded of the value of his life. Review: Funny, touching tale about the value of human life. Highly recommended. Rating: "Noteworthy" Watch with: Up (2009) & La dama y la muerte (2009).

The Lift (animated short)- Plot: Everyone has been guilty of small misdeeds at one point or another. The Lift explores the consequences of an elevator interaction gone wrong, prompting a young woman to learn about being insensitive and to never make the same mistake again. Review: Funny moralistic tale about ageism. Rating: Noteworthy Watch w. All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)

Thought of You (animated short)-Plot: A contemporary dance animation, drawn in a figurative style of conte on newsprint. The theme allows the viewer to form an independent interpretation of the complexities of intimate relationships. Review: Absolutely stunning animation and imagery. The film was actually choreographed and filmed with live dancers before the animator drew out the images. A wondrous sight to behold. Rating: Epic Watch with: Black Swan.

Amazonia-(animated short) Plot: In the dangerous world of the Amazon Rain forest, finding a meal proves to be an impossible task for a little tree frog named Bounce. His luck changes when he meets Biggy, a blue-bellied tree frog who takes him under his guidance and shows him the ways of the jungle in this animated journey set to Beethoven's Symphony No.8. Review: Funny if not terribly original tale about friendship. Rating: Stamped Out but worth watching. Watch with: Ferngully: The Last Rainforest.

Taste (animated short)-Plot: A tasteful dinner becomes something difficult to digest. Review: Short and silly, but well animated tale about attraction. There was a Q&A with the filmmaker after the screening. This is a hand drawn 1 minute animated film that took her 3 months to complete. Rating: Noteworthy Watch with: Ratatouille

Sweet Solitude-(animated short) Plot: Sweet Solitude is an experiment with sound and motion. There are no messages or hidden agendas, other than to reveal the discoveries made during my investigations. There is, of course, the seed of an idea or a bit of a plan when I begin, but I am quickly directed by the work, answering the needs, sorting the puzzles and discovering solutions through the aid of technology. Review: Beautifully shot photography that ultimately feels pretentious and pointless. It would've worked beautifully, however, in a larger work. Rating: "Rather stab a pen in my eye than ever watch this again" Watch instead: The Secret of NIMH (1982)

(animated short) Plot: same as Sweet Solitude. Review: Another pretentious but nice looking short by the director of Sweet Solitude. If you don't have a point of view as an artist in your work, then it is not art. It's just dumb luck. Maybe some of the footage should've been used in the new Brad Pitt film, The Tree of Life. At least it would then serve a purpose. Rating: "Rather stab a pen in my eye than ever watch this again" Watch instead: The Truman Show (1998)

Blog-a-thon 7 The Roommate, Whip It!, High School Musical 3: Senior Year, Reservation Road & more

Whip it good this senior year where for only $5 a day you can write you your own love song. Just be careful about that new roommate of yours that lives on reservation road.
High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008)$5 a Day (2008)My Own Love Song (2010)
The Roommate (2011)Reservation Road (2007)

Whip It! (2009)Sports Dramedy written by Shauna Cross based her novel "Derby Girl" & directed by Drew Barrymore. Starring: Oscar nom Ellen Page (Juno), Jimmy Fallon (Factory Girl),Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock), Daniel Stern (The Next Three Days), 3X Emmy nom Kristen Wiig ("SNL"), Eve ("Glee"), 3X Emmy nom Drew Barrymore (Grey Gardens (TV)), Andrew Wilson (Idiocracy), Indie Spirit award nom Juliette Lewis (Hysterical Blindness (TV)), & Ari Graynor (Conviction) Plot: In Bodeen, Texas, an indie-rock loving misfit (Page) finds a way of dealing with her small-town misery after she discovers a roller derby league in nearby Austin. Trailer: Review: Fun but forgettable directorial debut for Ms. Barrymore about family obligations & breaking out of a small town disguised as a sports film. Rating: "Stamped out but worth seeing [once]" Watch with: Gracie (2007) & Million Dollar Baby (2004).

High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008) Starring: Zac Efron (New Year's Eve) , Vanessa Hudgens (Sucker Punch), Ashley Tisdale ("Family Guy"), Lucas Grabeel ("Family Guy"), Emmy nom Jessica Tuck ("One Life to Live"), Mollee Gray (No Strings Attached), Audra Griffis ("Love Bites"), & Tadd Gadduang (The American Mall (TV)) Plot: As seniors in high school, Troy (Efron) and Gabriella (Hudgens) struggle with the idea of being separated from one another as college approaches. They & the rest of the Wildcats stage a spring musical to address their experiences, hopes and fears about their future. Trailer: Review: Unnecessary addition to the HSM franchise containing a plot that doesn't seem to exist, wraps itself up way too quickly, and doesn't show off Sharpay enough-my favorite character. There isn't much here with no memorable songs or dance sequences. I hope Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure fares better. Rating: I'd rather stab a pen in my eye than ever watch this again. Watch instead: HSM 2 or Hairspray.

$5 a Day (2008)- Comedy | Drama Starring: Oscar winner Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter), Indie Spirit nom Alessandro Nivola (Laurel Canyon), Emmy winner Sharon Stone ("The Practice"), Dean Cain ("Criminal Minds"), & Indie Spirit winner Amanda Peet (Please Give) Plot: The conservative son of a thrifty conman begrudgingly joins his father on the road -- after being released from jail for one of his dad's earlier crimes. Trailer: Review: I was conned into watching this movie. The premise looked at if it was about a father/son road trip where they make a bet not to spend more than $5 a day, and end up repairing their relationship along the way. Not so much. The plot was all over the place, and it didn't have enough emotional impact for the father/son relationship to resonate with me. The acting was great. Nivola is a gifted, underrated actor, but he couldn't save this film. Rating: Stamped out so why bother? Watch instead: Little Miss Sunshine (2006).

My Own Love Song-2010-comedy-drama-Starring: Oscar winner Renée Zellweger (Cold Mountain), Madeline Zima ("Royal Pains"), Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), 2X Oscar nom Nick Nolte (Affliction), Elias Koteas (Let Me In). Written & Directed by: Olivier Dahan (La Vie en Rose). Plot-A wheelchair-bound singer (Zellweger) and her best friend (Whitaker) embark on a road trip to Memphis. Trailer: Review: Some great music, but nothing to write home about. I felt like this film didn't resolve some of the obstacles in the film. If this movie was supposed to be a character study, then I felt like there should've been more focus on Zellweger's character. I didn't feel the need for this film to be a road trip film. What happened to them on the road, and the other people they met, including the sweet but unnecessary Zima character, didn't add to the story. It in fact took away from the core story of an alcoholic mother trying to forgive herself and reconnect with her child. The side plots and characters took away from the emotional core of the story. Rating: Stamped out so why bother. Get the soundtrack though. Watch instead: My One and Only.

The Roommate 2011 Thriller Starring: Leighton Meester ("Gossip Girl", Minka Kelly ("Charlie's Angels"), Cam Gigandet (Burlesque), Aly Michalka, Frances Fisher ("Eureka"), Billy Zane ("The Deep End"), Nina Dobrev ("Family Guy"), & Matt Lanter ("90210"). Directed by: Oscar nominee Christian E. Christiansen (At Night). Written by: Sonny Mallhi, Nick Bylsma, Chris Bylsma & Richard Robertson. Plot: While acclimating to campus life, college freshman Sara (Kelly) begins to realize that her new roommate, Rebecca (Meester), is becoming obsessed with her. The unhinged Rebecca starts targeting Sara's friends and loved ones. Can she save them -- and herself? Trailer: Review: Aside from the poor production value, this film really paid off for me. I've always liked these "Bitches Go Loco" movies. Even if they're bad, they're good. This film was actually good. I liked that it was more psychological than most films of this genre. It had an element of mystery in it which made it more intellectual than I thought it would be. You actually get to see this girl slowly start to unravel. I like that. It wasn't 0 to crazy in 20 minutes like most of these films. It was more subtle. My only problem with this film was Kelly's performance. She's pretty, but she cannot act. She has no screen presence whatsoever. Leighton as usual was awesome. Glad to see her stretch herself as an actor. Trailer: Rating: Noteworthy. Watch with: Chloe & Obsessed.

Reservation Road 2007 Dark Crime Drama Starring: 2X Oscar nom Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line), Elle Fanning (We Bought a Zoo), Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind), Oscar nom Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right), Oscar winner Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite) & 4X Emmy nom John Slattery ("Mad Men"). Written by: John Burnham Schwartz, 2X Oscar nom Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) based on Schwartz's novel. Directed by: George (Hotel Rwanda). Plot: The lives of Ethan (Pheonix) and his wife, Grace (Connelly), are thrown into chaos after their 10-year-old son (Sean Curley) is killed in a hit-and-run accident. When the case stalls, Ethan makes it his mission to hunt down and punish the person responsible. Trailer: Review: This is one of those movies that has been on my "to watch" list for a while, but I have never gotten around to seeing it. I finally did, and it was pretty good. I've seen better grief movies. Connelly at times seemed to overact in her role. Everyone else in the film was great, especially Fanning. The ending wasn't as satisfying as I wanted it to be, and the film didn't seem very original. I've seen this story before, but there were still moments in it that got to me. I will probably never watch this movie again, but it's good for a one watch. Rating: Stamped out but worth watching. Watch with: 21 Grams & Mystic River.