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NBFF Reviews: Blood Type Unknown and A Single Shot

a single shot poster whysoblu-001Friday night at the 2013 Newport Beach Film Festival allowed me the chance to see two films.  One was a romance drama with a twist called Blood Type: Unknown.  The other was a dramatic thriller called A Single Shot.  I was very pleased with one of these films, but still enjoyed my time at the festival, as per usual.  For my regular festival coverage this year, starting with this post, I am going to try something a bit different and write a little about all the films I see during one day at the festival, rather than exhaust myself and try to write full reviews for every film, as I have been doing in years past.  Hopefully I will provide the same level of insight, albeit in a more abridged version.

Blood Type: Unknown (Movie Review)

 

Blood Type: Unknown is the story of freshman college student Caitlyn Landale (Jenna Kanell).  She has just left for college and intends to study hard.  Upon arriving, Caitlyn is instantly at odds with her roommate, Alice (Leanna Pareja), but that doesn’t stop her from going to a party and learning of the mysterious Adam Godfrey (Doug Penikas).  Caitlyn later gets involved in a heated discussion during her creative writing class with Adam, only to develop a new relationship with him.  Her life is forever changed as she uncovers a secret Adam has kept for centuries.

The movie does get points for holding my interest, as there is a central mystery that kept me curious about the film’s enigmatic Adam character.  I wanted to know what it was that made him different from the others and the film does a good job at playing that aspect up, before revealing all the details that really need to be known.  At the same time, Caitlyn is a rather likable girl who opens up as the film goes on.  As Caitlyn is the lead, we have to see her go through a lot and I did like that the character earned a full arc over the course of the film.  Additionally, Jenna Kanell has a nice level of chemistry with Doug Penikas, which somewhat helped the film, despite its issues.

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Unfortunately I did have a lot of issues with the film as a whole.  A lot of this is due to the energy, as I found Blood Type: Unknown to not have much of a pulse.  While I do think the leads were good overall, the film had an issue with presenting a story that was truly engaging because of everyone involved and how some of it felt a little amateur, regardless of some of the story developments and the core relationship between Caitlyn and Adam.  It got to a point where everything started to feel pretty spelled out, as I was about one step ahead of every conversation occurring.  Along with that, a whole can of worms seemed to be open in regards to who Adam is, which could seemingly be explained away by the fact that the themes of the film revolved around love and soul mates, but still left me unsatisfied in regards to a few characters and actions that occurred in the film.

It is tough to be vague, but the twist of the film is quite specific and I do not want to spoil it, even though I was not a big fan of the film.  Blood Type: Unknown has its share of issues, but I will say that for a debut film (star Doug Penikas also wrote, directed, and produced), I did find there to be a lot of good filmmaking on display.  I also found the conclusion to be quite effective on an emotional level, given what the film was going for.  Hopefully Penikas will have the chance to make a livelier and better scripted film the next time around.

Check out the film’s trailer:

Blood Type: Unknown Official Trailer 2013 from More Brandy Productions on Vimeo.
blood type unknown poster whysoblu

A Single Shot (Movie Review)

 

The second film of the night was A Single Shot, which I was happy to be much more receptive to, despite being a much darker tale.  This film tells the sad story of John Moon (Sam Rockwell).  While stalking a deer out of season, John accidentally shoots and kills a teenage girl.  While trying to dispose of her body in an abandoned container, he stumbles upon a large sum of money.  John of course feels the guilt for what he has done, but also sees this as an opportunity to help his family, despite the fact that John’s wife, Moira (Kelly Reilly), recently left and took their son with her.  Unfortunately things become much more complicated as John gets caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse with hardened backwater criminals out for his blood.  Moon now must outsmart those hunting him down to save himself and his family.

My main thought in regards to this film has been to describe it as the darker version of a film like Fargo. It has a familiar type of story and motifs, but it is played completely straight.  Characters in this film do bad things and are punished for them.  Greed is not so much a motivating factor for John, but it certainly serves as a way to balance out the weight of his other sins.  As for the other characters, well let me just say that there are very few people to root for in this film.  Not everyone is evil here and the film actually does do a good job of rounding out the supporting cast with significant characters, but for the most part we are dealing with some pretty ugly individuals, all living in what appears to be both a beautiful environment and a location that is distanced from seemingly everywhere else in the world.

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Seriously, this film has great atmosphere.  While there are constant shots of the forested landscape and countryside that these characters are living within (the film was shot in Canada and said to take place in Montana, I believe), the actual town is a place seemingly stuck in time.  There are farms on the outskirts of town, local diners with regulars that look exactly like regulars, and no one who has likely sought out to come to this place for living on purpose, unless they just got back from The Road.

It is a fitting environment for the cast of characters we meet.  Sam Rockwell is fantastic in this film and continued proof that he is great in just about everything.  He can be the funniest guy in the room, but in this film he dials everything back to a restrained performance that has him working so well simply with his gestures and expressions.  Additionally, the supporting cast has veteran character actors including Jeffrey Wright, Ted Levine, Jason Isaacs, W. Earl Brown, and even William H. Macy as a local slimy lawyer.  This is a film very much about gruff men with backwater town accents, but no one feels like a caricature here.

A Single Shot is very much a drama, with some thrilling elements.  I have already mentioned Fargo, but A Simple Plan would be a good comparison as far as the overall mood of the film is concerned (more people should see A Simple Plan by the way).  It is very dark, very deliberate in pace, but very well acted and plotted out in a convincing manner.  There may not be much room for levity in a film like this, but between the atmosphere and the fine performances from the cast, I am definitely glad I did not miss this film.

Check out the film’s trailer here:

a single shot poster whysoblu

Click on the poster to visit the Newport Beach Film Festival website,
and be sure to check back to Why So Blu throughout the week
for more of my coverage of the festival!

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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