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

The first opening weekend of the ongoing Dances With Films Festival 2018 here in sunny LA (taking place June 7-17 at the Chinese 6 Theaters at Hollywood and Highland – go to www.danceswithfilms.com for more details!) has come and gone and it’s been a minefield of movies galore!  Of course there’s tons more to come this week including more reviews and interviews, but there’s a gaggle of flicks that have already played the fest and are in need a little critical coverage via our father/son WhySoBlu team.  So below are the first set of a massive twenty-eight film reviews – eleven features, thirteen midnight shorts, one competition short and three TV/Web Pilots – from the Coleman clan via this year’s crop of hopefuls.  Enjoy the critical skinny on features Reach, Diminuendo, Chasing Bullitt, Till Death, End Trip, shorts F@cking Drama, Instinct, Granny, Bad Seed, Frenchies, Feast On The Young, Stay, Hajji, and TV/Web Pilots Inspirational TherapyGeek Lounge and Yellow below.

Narrative Features


Jason’s Reviews

“Chasing Bullitt” – It’s hard to know exactly what is factual and what is not in writer/director Joe Eddy’s passion piece to the man and myth that was Steve McQueen, but as the ever engaging and super stylistic Chasing Bullitt unspools it becomes less and less important to the enjoyment factor.  So thorough are the depths of emotional ups and downs (the focal point is around the time of McQueen’s bomb Le Mans!), so fantastic is the at times dream like imagery (we get to see Steve McQueen do a musical dance number!) and so immersive is the on-par performance by Andre Brooks as the legendary aging lothario that even at times of less than stellar bits and ugly truths the cinema of cool still comes through.

“Till Death” – The up side of Till Death is that helmer Matt Eames definitely has a skill for suspense.  In his tall tale of a blind woman who must go through the entire beginning, middle and end of a homicide without the benefit of two evil eyes, Eames masterfully places the viewer right alongside the sightless vixen for a harrowing journey that surprisingly never feels limiting.  Down side is the film starts from the perspective of one character, jumps to another and then for a pinch to a third in an unnecessary mad movie scramble that’s a real distraction from the potboiler proceedings set up so adeptly.  Word to the wise to a filmmaker who has terrific tension potential (and apt for a flick about a gal who loses her sight) – keep your eyes on the prize.

“Reach” – Loved a lot of the aspects of this tale of a disenfranchised adolescent who gets a boost of upbeat teen energy from a cool new kid, but the main problem with Reach is it tries to knock its messages into viewers head with a sledgehammer.  Meaning amongst the more interesting aspects like the bonding of unlikely cliques, the importance of communication between families and the fact that all the high school angst takes place in a performing arts academy, there are also heavy-handed bits about depression, drug addiction and even violent aggression that make this one feel like an emotionally overrun Afterschool Special.  A flick that should have trusted that its immediate issues would be more than enough, in the arena of people problems Reach overreaches.

“End Trip” – If not for some disorienting casting and an unnecessary askew timeline, End Trip would have gotten top marks from me.  As is the tale of an affable Uber type driver who picks up an unforgettable fare has some clever twists and turns, horrifying moments and a solid sordid performance, but in the end story construction that creates disorientation rather than a thrilling movie mystery kneecaps all of the above.  Plus the similar looking casting of the leads does little to help the cohesiveness of the flick.  A clever conundrum I like – confusion I don’t.

“Diminuendo” – Even amidst a savory set-up involving a director dealing with an exact female robot replica of his past actress girlfriend who committed suicide, Diminuendo unfortunately cinematically just can’t cash in.  Meaning watching the lead Richard Hatch walk his way through scenes of fake angst, seeing the potential of lead actress Chloe Dykstra playing both the robot and her real life counterpart in various flashbacks utterly wasted and witnessing the flicks sad predictability makes for a less than thrilling AI experience.  Thankfully what does give off a small beacon of light are the sassy side characters including Leah Cairns as beautiful ball-busting producer Adrianna Sloane (she could give UnREAL’s Quinn King a run for her money!) and Star Trek alum Walter Koenig as sleazy agent Milton Green, but even their notable work can’t make this sci-fi story soar.


Michael’s Reviews

“End Trip” – This tale of an Uber-type driver that picks up an odd fare firmly takes the audience to an interesting alternate universe.  No spoilers here, but the film takes the audience on some extreme left hand roller coaster ride turns that thrill.  This gripping, unpredictable flick featuring some top-notch performances and skillful direction by Aaron Jay Rome is the kind of wild work that’s missing from movies.

“Reach” – With suicide so prevalent today, Reach is another such story centering on teen angst and depression that has some important moments, but ultimately fails in the finish.  Multiple storylines are intertwined to good dramatic effect, but in the end do not give justice to the build up and falter when falling simply on the side of sentimentality.  That said the performances, script and the emergence of rising talent Johnny James Fiore (playing a spirited new student) still makes this one worthwhile.

“A Horse From Heaven” – Another tired teen-in-trouble flick resolved by an animal affection, but this one has the distinct assistance of prayer.  The story is one we’ve seen before – teen girl with recently passed mother arrives at a new school with unresolved issues, gets picked on by the local rich gal and seeks solace in a horse.  Performances and story direction are saccharin sweet with a tinge of God message thrown in for good measure that may be uplifting for some, but for the uninitiated this one frankly feels formulaic.

“Chasing Bullitt” – Making a movie about an acting icon like Steve McQueen is not the easiest thing if said film is not a documentary or an autobiography, but Chasing Bullitt is more a fictitious portrait of the private life of the legend and as such may contain all, some or no truth to its depiction.  It portrays a troubled McQueen struggling with his wife, career and financial troubles all the while looking for his famed Mustang from Bullitt.  Using a road movie format to little effectiveness and intercut with marital and therapy scenes as a way to some sort of catharsis, it’s sadly most notable for putting dirty laundry of a fan favorite front and center.

“Till Death” – Shot in B&W to give the film an old school style retro thriller look, not even tech tricks can save this tale.  While the film seems to want to channel the dramatic thrills of Wait Until Dark, belaboring endlessly the promise of payback with no thrills all but induces sleep.

“Diminuendo” – Richard Hatch’s last acting outing is about a director who is asked to make a movie about his late actress girlfriend who committed suicide with an advanced robot who looks like her. Confusing for sure, the film contains both flashbacks and present day scenes, neither of which are especially effective.  Hatch’s work is not his best and unsure of what it wants to be – a drama or a sci-fi outing – the only thing this movie can be categorized as is a mess.


Midnight Shorts


Jason’s Reviews

“Instinct” – A seductive, sinful and sexually charged thriller in the style and substance vein of the first Wachowski outing Bound, this AFI Thesis film about two artists exploring their dark sides certainly screams the arrival of five-star talent to be reckoned with for ALL involved.

“Granny” – Funny, biting and not short on the elderly carnage, this Granny got gore game.

“Stay” – We’ve seen stories of apathetic deadbeat boyfriends before, but making this one a hairy demon from hell is a stroke of comedic genre genius.

“Feast On The Young” – While the story of an evil fairy in the woods here is so-so, the dream-like visual imagery of the piece is right on par with anything Ridley Scott ever shot.

“F@cking Drama” – While the ‘is it performance art or real life?’ storyline here is both familiar and predictable, there’s still some thought-provoking poignancy within.

“Bad Seed” – Annoying kid gets a little comeuppance – short and satisfactory

“Frenchies” – If there was a social message via this Twilight Zone short involving dog faced people I missed it – no treats for me.


Michael’s Reviews

“F@cking Drama” – A true tour-de-force mind f@ck that’s worth it if just for the awkward feelings one is left with.

“Instinct” – An AFI thesis with style, substance and performances that rivet – a degree well earned.

“Granny” – This horror short featuring a pissed off granny not ready for a nursing home is both hilarious and entertaining.

“Frenchies” – This short, which cleverly comments on our current political climate, does get a tad diluted in its message due to bad editing.

“Feast On The Young” – Evil flesh eating fairy fables are unusual, but was disappointed with this ones safe Hollywood ending.

“Bad Seed” – A leave the nest saga complete with wits-end parents and an apathetic kid is ultimately irritating to watch.


Competition Shorts


Jason’s Reviews

“Hajji” – Effective and well shot short that feels way too short about a couple of US Marines getting some bad karma payback.  (Look for Walking Dead’s Ross Marquand playing against type as the bad guy of the piece!)


TV & Web Pilots


Jason’s Reviews

“Inspirational Therapy” – Is it wrong that I want these askew IT, Inspirational Therapy short segments each and every morning instead of a cup of coffee for a pick me up?  Seeing Matt Vladimery’s schlub Herbie turn on his own various philosophies at the drop of a hat (he asks for a McDonalds Quarter Pounder and cigarette to calm down from a panic attack!) is caustic comedy music to my ears.  (Someone get him and writer/director Ralph Bismargi a big project STAT!)

“Geek Lounge” – A kind of watered down Big Bang Theory, there are still a few notable geek gags and references that make this one amusing.  Though best in show is Erin Gordon’s engaging and opinionated Abby – her needy yet lovable nerd is Han and Leia wrapped in one.

“Yellow” – While I get the tone and vibe of what Yellow wants to be (various people intersecting inside an art gallery Paul Thomas Anderson style) there’s simply not enough substance within the style to warrant this as binge watching fare.  (Though Continuum fans will note the presence of half the cast here!)


Thanks for reading!  And be sure to head on over to the Chinese 6 Theaters at Hollywood and Highland between June 7-17 for the Dances With Films Festival 2018 and support all things Indie.  More to come!



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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