Dances With Films Festival 2017 – Nine Encapsulated Movie Reviews

The cinematically filled 20th Annual Dances With Films Festival 2017 (taking place June 1-11 at the Chinese 6 Theaters at Hollywood and Highland – go to www.danceswithfilms.com for more details!) is in full film swing and the reels are unspooling fast and furious for film fans to enjoy.  Continuing our own fest coverage, below are a massive nine feature film reviews and even that is merely a taste of the myriad of flicks that have screened so far this year.  Revenge tales with super powers, father/daughter dramas, real life inspired flicks, tales of both serious and comical woe, haunted houses, deadly dogs, musicians, hackers and deadly hobos without a shotgun – it’s all dissected here for your convenience!  Check out the Encapsulated Movie Reviews of the first feature film crop via the DWFF 2017 including Eliza Sherman’s Revenge, Tomorrow, Maybe, D-Love, Grief, Inheritance, Chance, American Folk, Missing In Europe and Central Park via three different film categories below!

Opening Night Films

“American Folk” – An interesting take on life just after the 9/11 attacks involving two strangers who are forced to band together through both necessity and a love of music to get home to New York, American Folk surprisingly plays out in unexpected ways.  Adopting the unpredictability of the road and the unforeseen adventures that go with it is by far the films’ strong suit, giving an uncommon calm to a harrowing moment in time.  And while there are some character clichés and a few heavy-handed moments, the film overall proves unique by daring to show the lessor travelled side of chaos.

“Missing In Europe” – What could have been not only a terrific new techno take on the whole “kid kidnapped” storyline, but also could have provided a great feisty female lead in the form of one persistent parent, sadly crashes on all accounts.  Not only is Miranda Raison’s mean momma not as advertised (she even has a “getting ready” scene – why?!), but her particular set of hacking skills produce no impressive or even slightly cool by accident cinematic set pieces to give this DOA flick even a modicum of life.  Mired in bad B-movie clichés and with a female heroine who ultimately has to depend on male counterparts for heavy lifting (boring!), what’s clearly missing here is the roar of woman.

Competition Features

“Eliza Sherman’s Revenge” – Incredibly creative, not to mention immensely fun, Eliza Sherman’s Revenge has an ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ approach to it’s inspired story insanity – and it works.  From Eliza’s vengeance weapons of choice (try super powers plus add a nifty force field!) to the fib told to unsuspecting party attendees (come to a birthday – for 21 Jump Street bad boy Richard Grieco!), from the adjusting of the outcome of the evenings events (Sherman summons up a little Groundhog Day time travel…to varying results!) to the quirky gang of guilty (Kiva Jump’s uptight Bethany is a hoot!) and not guilty (dug Mike Rock’s anal retentive Aaron!) participants, writer/director Gregory Fitzsimmons lovingly keeps the audience off kilter so the comedy hits home.  But it’s the lead performance by actress Jackie Geary as the crazed titular devious dame Eliza that gives the flick its final cherry on top – revenge is sweet after all.

“Tomorrow, Maybe” – Bad news is the part of this film involving an out-of-control cop having issues with the job and bringing them home to bear on his unsuspecting wife feels a tad ‘After School Special’ with drinking, domestic abuse and suicide all put on full familiar display.  But good news is the film seriously shines when dealing with the angle involving the complex, real and riveting relationship between battered wife Bethany Jacobs and her newly released from prison pop Robert Blanche who is determined to mend fences with his ailing and estranged daughter.  Their emotional scenes together, chemistry and heartbreakingly raw moments thankfully overshadow any and all less than effective elements that, maybe, could have fallen by the wayside.

“D-Love” – While the story of D-Love involving a couple at their lowest moments meeting an inspired drifter and having their lives profoundly changed is both incredibly familiar and filled with some typical dramatic tropes, I still fell under the strange spell of D-Love.  It could be the easy-going turn by Zen guru Ditlev Darmakaya (he was the actual guy who inspired the events of the film!) or the enlightened simple message he brings, but amidst the character clichés (the bitchy boss is super forced!) and some story predictability there’s still much to love about D-Love.

“Grief” – As a cohesive film, Grief on the surface seems easy to dismiss.  There’s little hope in the tale of a broken man who has lost his child nearing the end of his rope, there are odd out-of-place comical bits and the film has a wacky tone that gives new meaning to the term all over the place.  But within the uneven staging of Grief also lies some serious filmmaking prowess via director Kevin Renwick that’s way too alluring to ignore.  Both his raw moments (the scenes of Renwick as an actor salivating rage and sadness are kneecapping!) and stylistic surreal ones (the drug addled dream riddled with pills and pink flesh is a sight to behold!) prove powerful and while they may not mesh well within the walls of Grief, there are thankfully many movies out and about looking for a few good men with style – Renwick is one.

“Inheritance” – An interesting premise involving a mystery house inherited by an unsuspecting son via a father he never new turns standard stock scary very quick and the result is a thriller low on thrills.  A lead man with familiar afflictions (think the poor man’s The Shining!), side characters we know and don’t love (the cautious know-it-all neighbor, a shady unknown relative!) and family secrets that prove less than poignant, Inheritance is an imperfect movie going through the movie motions.

“Chance” – Watching the animated wares of Director Kenny Roy’s dog tale Chance I couldn’t help wondering – who was the intended audience for the film?  The hard-hitting story involving brutal dog fighting, not to mention the disturbing and unsightly canine animation in the film, is sure to keep the kids away, but the more sappy segments and characters are a surefire repellent to an adult audience (Allen Nelson’s Mutt provides the clichéd comic relief release!) as well.  Not catering to anyone and containing a story structure that feels flawed is never a good start – Chance never had a chance.

Midnight Features

“Central Park” – For the slice and dice crowd, there are some cool kills within the slasher segments of Central Park that may make it worth your sick and twisted time.  Problem is the films’ more engaging elements – revenge on family members of a swindler, the selfless bravery of a homeless stranger and police corruption and misconduct – are merely used as sprinkles on top of a ho-hum horror sundae we’ve eaten a thousand times.  Plus with its slow boring build, unmemorable characters and plot holes galore, Central Park is one mundane movie meadow in need of a little maintenance.


Stay tuned to WhySoBlu.com for continued review coverage via the Dances With Films Festival 2017 and if in LA go bold and hit the Chinese 6 Theaters at Hollywood and Highland between June 1-11 to check out the movie gold for yourself – you never know what you’re gonna get!


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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