Friday, March 10, 2017

Gasparilla ends; now what are these films' future?

The one-week Gasparilla International Film Festival, in Tampa Florida, ended last night and here are my final set of reviews for the films I chose to see. Let’s hope some of the films screened get wide distribution, always a concern at festivals where even very good movies may otherwise never see the light of day.

Future 38 (Jamie Greenberg): This movie throws all the tropes of 1930s films together in a comedy that mixes old with the new. Our hero Essex (Nick Westrate) is sent on a time-travelling mission to seek a matured isotope which can be used as a weapon to stymie the Germans before they launch World War II. He finds himself in New York in 2018, and is there ever a world of difference! Only it’s not quite what you think. The old and the new have a way of coming together in strange ways in this hilarious film which serves up 30s-era repartee (“I feel like I just cracked the world’s biggest fortune cookie”). Formica, of course, plays a special role.

Handsome Devil (John Butler): This Irish boarding school film is a technically well made coming of age story that also debunks gay stereotypes, while serving up a few of its own. Ned Roche (Fionn O’Shea) is shunned because of his sexuality yet it is he who turns the table on the school with a big reveal.

King Charles (Nicholas Naylor) This was a local crowd-pleaser because it was filmed in and around the Tampa area. I’m not big on movies about cops and drug dealers but this sustained my interest. The acting could have been better but there was enough excitement and plot twists to string me along. Troy D. Williams is the starring DEA agent working on the margins to bring down a drug kingpin (Rod Grant as Mitchell Caldwell). 

Women Who Kill (Ingrid Jungermann): This was a wry comedy sending up, intentionally or not, that whole Portlandia-like hippie milieu found, in this case, at a Brooklyn co-op market. No one smiles among the volunteers while two central characters, Morgan (played by Jungermann herself) and Jean (Ann Carr) – who also host a podcast about female serial killers – sort out the ragged ends of their relationship when a mysterious Simone (Sheila Vand) comes along. Full of angst-laden psychobabble among the fair trade set, the film is a rare treat.

Carrie Pilby (Susan Johnson): Based on the novel by Caren Lissner this is a delicious comedy about an intellectually precocious graduate student (Bel Powley) who’s IQ and superior ethics make her feel she can’t associate with the rest of the world, who are all inferior, of course. Her shrink (Nathan Lane) tries to get her outside her shell but it’s a tough slog for our hero, who can see through other people’s games and postures. Gabriel Byrne as Carrie’s dad rounds off the three main characters.

All Nighter (Gavin Wiesen): Emile Hirsch as Martin and J. K. Simmons as Mr. Gallo, Martin’s ex-girlfriend’s father, go on a bender trying to track down the missing Ginnie (Analeigh Tipton) in a rollicking road movie – if only around L. A. – where the twosome’s adventures result in some crazy and hilarious encounters. Comedy, yes, but also a coming of age film in its own way.

Unleashed (Finn Taylor): (Post-screening Q & A with director and producer in photo above) This closing night film was a crowd pleaser because of its predictable scenarios. Emma's (Kate Micucci) cat and dog are transformed by the cosmos into two hunks of men. I thought the premise was that the transmogrified animals would be the ideal males we hear women so much want. But these guys keep their animal instincts and still can’t get close, though they sure are cute. Maybe that’s the point.

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