Dances With Films Festival 2018 – Even More Father/Son Reviews

The older and younger Coleman critic clan are going cinema strong still watching many movie outings via the current Dances With Films Festival 2018 (taking place June 7-17 at the Chinese 6 Theaters at Hollywood and Highland – go to www.danceswithfilms.com for more details!) and the reviews are pouring in.  This time out there are twenty-two reviews in total – eleven Narrative features, four Doc features, three Doc shorts, three Fusion shorts and one TV & Web Pilot – that Jason and Michael have dissected for your reading pleasure.  Check out the critic skinny on Save Yourself, Meant To Be Broken, Miss Arizona, Nathan’s Kingdom, Doubting Thomas, An American In Texas, Stay, At The Drive-In, Father’s Kingdom, Between The Shades, Shirts!, I Am Famous, The Kaleidoscope Guy At The Market, The Shiva List, Someone You Know, Brock Bledsoe: Future Hero and Doucheaholics: Melody & Madison below!

Narrative Features


Jason’s Reviews

“Save Yourself” – A Mamet word play outing for the When Harry Met Sally crowd, this effective less-is-more tale of two people spending the night chatting in hopes of a romantic connection is very well written and executed.  (Think Before Sunrise if the pair would honest to a fault!)  Plus director Allen C. Gardner beats the odds by making his female character (the super sassy no-hold-barred Kelsey Gunn!) way more interesting than his male one.  (It’s allowed guys!)  In a movie world where dating and romance mostly goes into a one-size-fits-all box, Save Yourself is candid cool that isn’t easily contained.

“Meant To Be Broken” – With a winning premise and a cast that’s simply engaging, Meant To Be Broken manages to beat its own over-the-top odds.  Meaning there are goofy farcical moments, inane story twists and even some pure cheddar bits that threaten to derail this tale of a law-abiding man who finds out he has an inoperable brain tumor and decides to live a little.  But the theme thankfully lends itself to the outrageous behavior, not to mention that leads Dave Coyne as the straight-laced Harvey and Nick DePinto as his unsavory sidekick make for one interesting odd couple. A mixed bag of movie fun, this one manages to get the most out of its last bit of movie life.

“Miss Arizona” – A wonderful and very funny outing that sees a disenchanted and unsatisfied housewife caught up in the lives of a gaggle of gals from a local woman’s shelter for one unforgettable crazy night.  And while the wild events that occur (from impersonating a government official to being forced to compete in a transvestite beauty pageant!) are notable for sure, it’s the killer cast that knocks this one out of the park.  Johanna Braddy as the unfulfilled Rose, Shoniqua Shandai as the no-nonsense Jasmine, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (of Fletch fame!) as the cunning Maybelle, Robyn Livey as the earnest Leslie and even Otmara Marrero as the mostly mum Sammy make for one fabulous cast of female leads with flavor.  Top it off with some Steve Guttenberg in drag action (which I NEVER want to see again!) and you got a thoughtful and fun female flick that does way more then just look good.

“Nathan’s Kingdom” – While the premise of Nathan’s Kingdom lends itself to possibly being a fantastical fable about a struggling brother and sister trying to find themselves, the execution is something else.  Not only are the two lead characters highly volatile and unredeemable from start to finish (selfishness is ripe and rampant for both!), but the directionless film feels like it ends about five times.  (And none are satisfying!)  The only saving grace here are the few paper animation sequences of the mythical kingdom the pair are searching for – two hours of that would have been a royal welcome.


Michael’s Reviews

“Miss Arizona” – A naïve, former beauty queen turned trophy wife seeks purpose in her existence in this wild send up in the tradition of Scorsese’s After Hours and Landis’ Into the Night.  Kudos all around for this utterly entertaining experience, with particular shout outs to talented director Autumn McAlpin and Shoniqua Shandai for her scene stealing performance.

“Doubting Thomas” – This effective tale about a white pregnant married couple that finds themselves with a black child is as an important allegory dealing with racism and issues so relevant today. A film where emotions explode thus tarnishing all involved as the hidden truths are slowly revealed, Doubting Thomas is stellar in all aspects thanks to the vision of helmer Will McFadden and his cast – bravo.

“An American In Texas” – A familiar slice of 90’s Americana with a group of young punk rockers trying to escape the clutches of a one-industry town.  Their anger at the dearth of options open to them spills out into concerts, antisocial behavior and all out vandalism with fuel added to the already raging fire in the form of acid.  A gritty film with predictable results, the entertaining but not outstanding An American In Texas is still a decent slice of cinema pie.

“Save Yourself” – This tale of two people involved in a single night courtship with verbal fencing reminiscent of My Dinner with Andre feels less like watching a movie and more an exercise in watching ourselves. This one may seem like a rom-com, but with its real feel it almost dares you to stop watching.  Funny, well acted and well written.

“Meant To Be Broken” – What laws would you break if you were told you had a terminal illness?  It’s the question that is posed to straight arrow Harvey (who is on death’s door from brain cancer) and his hustling con-man companion out for a few laughs.  Comedy is sprinkled lightly throughout, loose ends are tied up by the end and the performances are respectable all round – somewhat satisfying but still safe.

“Stay” – When a Japanese fish market worker gets fired, his fight to stay clean and sober gets way more difficult, but upon meeting a girl one night things begin to change.  The problem with this rom-dram is amidst the blocks of long conversation nothing extraordinary happens and it begins to feel like a stale soap opera.  With the exception of a single section involving a Grandma that kicks the film temporarily up a level, this is a below average outing with little depth that stays that way.

“Nathan’s Kingdom” – Autistic Nathan and younger sister Laura pledge themselves to an unbreakable bond as a way of coping with the fact they only have each other as kids, but as grown siblings their struggles become all too apparent.  With the story leaning heavily on the idea of a fictitious kingdom that Nathan is desperate to get to, the journey itself is unfortunately both choppy and repetitive, leaving little room for audience engagement.  Hats off though to lead Jacob Lince for his acting debut.




Jason’s Reviews

“At The Drive-In” – A simple and sweet doc that on the surface appears to be about saving an ailing drive-in, but in the end turns out to be a love letter for all who still believe in the magic of movies. There is of course the David and Goliath tale of 35mm vs. digital and it’s damning effect on old school movie houses that cannot afford it like Mahoning Drive-In, but ample doc helmer Alexander Monelli digs much deeper to explore the colorful cast of characters behind the curtain.  (All of whom work for free BTW!)  From dedicated old school projectionist Jeff Maddox to decoration showman James Mills the stories behind the inhabitants here are just as rich as the history of the place itself.  Proving that the affection for moving pictures is alive and well, it’s both people and passion that drives this drive-in.


Michael’s Reviews

“Father’s Kingdom” – The question of ‘father who?’ proves to be both the irony and fascination of Father’s Kingdom, a remarkable tale of a black preacher Rev. M.J. Divine who was a civil rights activist, a desegregationist at the time when “whites only” was in vogue, helper of the poor and the embodiment of Christian type principles.  His detractors, who dismiss him because he claimed to be God, say he was merely a cult leader and a monetary opportunist, yet today many of us do not know who he is and what he did or stood for.  This doc is a top-notch examination of his legacy and has historical significance yet to play out.

“At The Drive-In” – This homage to drive-ins of old, lovingly shows a rag tag team of die-hard lovers of 35mm film and movies in general, preserving and operating the Mahoning Drive-In purely as a selfless labor of love.  In an effort to help one remember the nostalgia of going to the drive-in during younger years, Director Alexander Monelli shows that the love of going out to the movies still exists via the Mahoning family and the caring community it has become.

“Between The Shades” – With no script, no performances, Between The Shades is a decent doc featuring ordinary people talking about their extraordinary personal experiences on all sides of the sexual and gender spectrum via the LGBTQI community and their candor reflects personal turmoil and public progress in acceptance.  Ultimately it’s an uplifting tale that may not be everyone’s entertainment vs. teaching tool, but it’s certainly worth the view.


Documentary Shorts


Jason’s Reviews

“Shirts!” – A music only doc short that’s as cool and creative as the wacky featured shirts themselves.

“I Am Famous” – A somber but interesting look at the world of pop culture through the eyes of Back To The Future’s iconic Biff himself Thomas F. Wilson.

“The Kaleidoscope Guy At The Market” – Dug seeing the glass works and creations of master craftsman Michael Shaw, but the narrated history lesson bits feel like being in school.


Fusion Shorts


Jason’s Reviews

“The Shiva List” – Witnessing two sparring sisters fighting as both adults and as little girls Battle Royale style had me both laughing and crying – helmer Ashley Hillis has serious cinema skills.

“Someone You Know” – Fun and quirky little short about a couple who play a harmless game that suddenly turns dark – winning always comes at a cost.

“Brock Bledsoe: Future Hero” – Humorous and uber-cheesy tale of one actor in need of a little method – ending is totally earned.


TV & Web Pilots


Jason’s Reviews

“Doucheaholics: Melody & Madison” – Two texting instagram immersed girls battle it out in front of dumbfounded adults with next gen tech speak – caustic and clever comedy.


Again, get you rear out to the Chinese 6 Theaters at Hollywood and Highland between June 7-17 for the ongoing Dances With Films Festival 2018 and judge the film wares for yourself!



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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