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Dances With Films 2018 – Final Father/Son Film Reviews

This is it film fans!  (Well – almost it!)  The 21st Annual Dances With Films Festival 2018 is over and what a massive amount of Indie cinema there was.  Our Coleman critic team of Jason and Michael each took on their fair share of flicks and as a result more movies got covered this year than in any other previous.  They are still putting together their very own Best of Fest ‘Wrap Up’ where they choose their own selection of winners in each respective category, but just before that hits they have some final film reviews to pass along.  So below are seventeen reviews – fifteen features, one documentary feature and one doc short – that will finish out their critical skinny for this year’s crop.  Check out reviews of Antiquities, The Best People, In This Gray Place, At The End Of The Day, Deany Bean Is Dead, Concrete Kids, Double Eagle Ranch, A Brilliant Monster, Purdah and Al Imam all below!

 

Narrative Features

 

Jason’s Reviews

“Antiquities” – A well-executed small town tale of a local antiques mall shop and the colorful characters that inhabit it.  Both the playful and personal writing (via helmer Daniel Campbell and Graham Gordy) as well as the unforgettable real feeling performances (from Ashley Greene’s sarcastic Ellie to Troy Anthony Hogan’s sassy Dewey Ray!) make this little slice of life flick much more than another fun drama to dismiss – this one is a rare film find.

“The Best People” – What’s most amusing about The Best People is how it’s initial failure to be funny makes way for some serious effective drama.  Meaning the film starts out wanting to be a wacky situation comedy in the Bridesmaids arena with the caustic Anna Evelyn Joy (who still gives a solid performance!) and the blunt Arthur Napiontek playing best people trying to sabotage their friends’ wedding with little success.  But it’s when the flick takes a sharp turn into more dramatic territory that it takes off and brings best work to the table.  Unsure of its comedic chops, this one shines brightest when the people get serious.

“In This Gray Place” – Loved that the setting of a dirty one-room rest stop bathroom didn’t impede on the excitement of this tale of a hapless criminal of a botched robbery with nowhere left to hide. Plus the solid voice-over phone acting of all involved (especially Angela Nordeng who brings it as the emotional girlfriend!) is reminiscent of the effective vocal work in Locke.  Unfortunately problems come in the third act with the film not only slowing to almost a stop, but also becoming annoyingly redundant by replaying important moments for no good reason.  A thriller that should have been tight and taut from start to finish, this grey place should have cut to black sooner.

“At The End Of The Day” – A somewhat safe coffee table take on a tale about a Christian teacher who infiltrates a gay and lesbian group and finds more answers than he is looking for.  Not taking a page out of any dark or deeply dramatic films that came before of the same ilk (see American History X!), this one treats the material with non-threatening situation comedy kid gloves that has the effect of watering down both the laughs and the lessons.  An entertaining but somewhat geriatric outing, this one aims low and succeeds.

“Deany Bean Is Dead” – A film with both clever caustic comedy and a quirky leading lady (all courtesy of writer/actress to watch Allison Marie Volk!) is sadly kneecapped by some unwelcome and unneeded audio intrusion.  Meaning it’s fun to watch Volk’s crazed character Deanna manipulate everyone from a bitchy boss to her former fiancée, but the use of a podcast voice-over specializing in murder that plays over pivotal scenes for the entire film brings any fun or effectiveness to a screeching halt.  Like a movie theater neighbor three seats over from you that won’t keep quiet, sometimes distractions cannot be tuned out.

“Concrete Kids” – A flick with an unscripted and unfocused feel, Concrete Kids in the end feels like a film about nothing.  Of course the base premise involves following two young kids as they skateboard their way across a dangerous LA landscape to the mecca of the Staples Center, but everything that happens within the story feels unplanned and uninteresting.  Helmer Lije Sarki hints at everything from broken families to physical abuse within the films’ thin framework, but sadly never fully commit to anything thus keeping any semblance of story meaning not unlike the composite material of its title – a surface affair.

“Double Eagle Ranch” – With a story that’s similar to my former Slamdance pick for best film Kate Can’t Swim, but with none of that films’ endearing or cohesive qualities, Double Eagle Ranch is a talking heads movie mess.  Ripe with unlikeable characters that have no arc, don’t learn from mistakes and never ever achieve any sort of life or love redemption, this tale of a couple trying to rekindle their relationship after a brutal break up is just plain painful to watch – this ranch needs to be condemned twice.

 

Michael’s Reviews

“Antiquities” – A trip back to a childhood home is always nostalgic, self-reflective and sometimes filled with surprises and so is Antiquities.  Young Walt heads back to his hometown where the death of his father leads him to a job at a local antiques mall. Filled with all manner of quirky memorable characters, the relationships within unfolded like the layers of a ripe and ready onion.  With perfect performances, direction and writing, Antiquities is a pure delight to watch and reminds the audience of a slice of Americana that could have been served up by someone like Sam Shepard.

“The Best People” – The Best People is a film with an uneven tone about jealousy and dysfunction among two very different sisters and their surrounding friends.  Comedic bits start slow but get funnier, then things get serious and then the audience feels the slap of a Hollywood ending.  A missed movie opportunity, no matter how you slice it, to do either an outright comedy or a more interesting drama, but still shout out to Anna Evelyn Joy who makes this one a better watch.

“In This Gray Place” – Being barricaded alongside a criminal in a one-room rest stop bathroom after a botched robbery is a tricky proposition – the biggest namely being not losing the audience along the way.  Writer/director R.D. Womack II adequately alternates between the films’ present predicament and flashback explanations via the full story surrounding the robbery, but even with a good turn by lead Aleksander Ristic, this one still fails to keep the audience glued or interested with flat spots galore.

“A Brilliant Monster” – A way-too-complicated story mix involving high school bullying, over achievers, self help books and related monsters who have a way with words that reside in the closet, A Brilliant Monster can’t decide if it’s a comedy or horror film.  Neither – this one simply bites off more than it can chew.

“At The End Of The Day” – Steeped in farcical formula, At The End Of The Day features a Christian college professor going underground to dig up dirt on a local support group all the while pretending to be gay.  Of course as he attends the group meetings and fundraisers he slowly starts to realize the humanity and love in the community vs. the vilification he teaches and his college stands for.  (Heavy-handed message received!)  Ultimately the film just doesn’t work – and not even divine sentimentality can save it.

“Concrete Kids” – Trying to get to downtown LA from Venice at night on skateboards, this tale of two kids on an adventure to get rich is utterly uninteresting.  The boys’ journey frankly feels aimless and at nine years of age this type of trip seems implausible and frankly kinda dangerous.  A tedious movie mish-mash, this one earns one-dog kudos for the two skateboarding boy leads.

“Double Eagle Ranch” – An estranged couple agrees to trek into the mountains to honor a last wish and scatter the ashes of a loved one.  The situation is made worse with the arrival of a second couple when the cabin accidentally gets double booked, but it’s the audience that ultimately gets stuck with the bad experience.  From the beyond redemption leads to the predictability of the story, from dream sequences that almost blind to a multitude of false endings, the only thing this flick does right is prolong misery.

 

Documentaries

 

Michael’s Reviews

“Purdah” – Here within the culture of India where women and men’s roles are dictated by the way of life, this doc follows a bold daughter who decides she wants to play Cricket, traditionally a man’s game.  What follows is initially a surface story of ups and downs, lies and truths, but then the film slowly begins to go deeper and highlight various issues within the family itself involving everything from abandonment to dealing with possible HIV.  The examination of life in India is interesting subject for sure, but the execution of all of the above is what’s lackluster.

 

Documentary Shorts

 

Michael’s Reviews

“Al Imam” – A female Imam is almost unheard of in Muslim religion.  Yet this short celebrates, highlights and showcases one such woman, who is obviously not seen too kindly by the almost exclusively male Imams around the world.  An interesting short that still feels like more of an educational piece than an entertaining doc.  It lacks punch – flesh it out and get bold.

 

Be sure to check back tomorrow for our final article via this year’s Dances With Films Festival – it’s our Best Of Fest ‘Wrap Up’!

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I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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