LA Film Festival 2017 – More Film Reviews

Films, films and more…films.  (LA Fest style!)  We here at WhySoBlu.com are trying to keep up with the cinematic offerings of the ongoing LA Film Fest 2017 (taking place June 14-22 at various Arclight Cinemas and theaters around LA – go to www.lafilmfest.com for more details!) and it’s a long movie race for sure.  Full of dramas, docs, comedies and carnage, this year’s crop is definitely a diverse group of flicks geared to fans with different indie tastes.  So below is the second wave of Encapsulated Movie Reviews via LAFF 2017 – the good, the bad and the…curious.  Father/son stories, docs on animated primates (and the people who make them!) and sperm donors, the horrors of aging, young killers in training, the power of money (and not having it!) and tales of teenage angst – all given critical skinny for your consideration!  Check out the reviews of LAFF hopefuls Humor Me, Monkey Business: The Adventures of Curious George’s Creators, Thank You For Coming, Replace, My Friend Dahmer, Beauty Mark and And Then I Go below. 


“Humor Me” – Filled with sharp wit, caustic comedy (some via sassy seniors!) and even the occasional moving dramatic moment, Humor Me takes a very typical story scenario and manages to still churn out a fantastic almost five-star flick.  (Half star off for film familiarity!)  Featuring the ever solid Jemaine Clement (viva la Gentlemen Broncos!) and the wonderful Elliott Gould as an inspired odd couple father and son team forced to cohabitate again (think Mother’s Debbie Reynolds and Albert Brooks but with deadpan humor and cornball jokes!), the film wisely pays close attention to detail via colorful casting and as such the material gets elevated beyond the page.  From Ingrid Michaelson as Jemaine’s quirky gal pal to Willie C. Carpenter as a jealous local groundskeeper everyone is equally interesting here.  Hats off to Humor Me helmer Sam Hoffman and company – it takes cinematic skill to take a story we’ve seen before and make us happy to see it again.

Documentary Competition

“Monkey Business: The Adventures of Curious George’s Creators” – Two interesting figures with a plethora of backstory baggage, the creative husband/wife team of Hans and Margret Rey prove even more curious and interesting than their wonderful iconic animated monkey Curious George.  We learn separately about both artist Hans (he was the fun one children gravitated to!) and marketing gal Margret (she was so caustic someone described her as a ‘public nuisance’!) and their long and arduous journey of getting out of Paris (on bicycles on less!) during Nazi wartime to keep their passion for art and life alive.  (After seeing a drawing of George a couple of soldiers let the couple go!)  But the wonderment of this doc aside from the terrific tales within, lies in the animation staging of various events by Director Ema Ryan Yamazaki that tell the story in ways both Hans and Margret would have approved of – artistic and honest.

“Thank You For Coming” – Incredibly effective doc that plays out like a detective story with helmer and subject Sara Lamm searching for the sperm donor from whom she was conceived.  What works here is not only how candid Lamm is, but also how utterly personal she gets both with her subjects and via her own bold reveals.  Plus her captivating use of a narrative voice-over that serves as diary entries of sorts provides fantastic fly-on-the-wall insight into the mind of a gal searching for family truths and it’s this unbridled access that makes the viewer so glad they came.


“Replace” – While I dug the early macabre moments and latter Twilight Zone elements to the story of Replace – gal finds her skin is aging and only the fresh flesh off another will provide a quick fix – the slow staging here is a kneecapping film factor.  Meaning for every shocking visual (the adhering of the first piece of skin is uber-creepy!) and ominous character (Barbara Crampton makes for one morose and dark doctor!) there are drawn out bits (the flashbacks to past events grows tired!) and folks that fall flat (Lucie Aron’s flirtatious neighbor is a bore!) that are waiting in the wings.  But ultimately with a captivating offbeat turn by leading lady Rebecca Forsythe (daughter of iconic actor William Forsythe… and it shows!) as a gal torn between life, death and murder, there’s just enough interesting stuff that helps Replace replace what doesn’t work.


“My Friend Dahmer” – I never read the graphic novel upon which this material was adapted, but it seems to me with a title like My Friend Dahmer the film’s perspective would be from the headspace of someone close to the famed serial killer.  Instead the film plays more like a straight biopic with Ross Lynch’s stone faced Dahmer portrayed as a hapless victim of everything from thoughtless school chums to bickering parents (Anne Heche and Dallas Roberts who are both wasted paying one-note characters) with a few scenes of dead animal dissection and stalking weirdness thrown in for good measure.  It’s a strange and at times questionable story perspective indeed and in the wake of Dahmer’s later dirty diabolical deeds, is a tough sympathy pill for the audience to swallow true or not.  Besides being an awkward and troubled teen is nothing new – I’m sure some of Dahmer’s unfortunate victims had moments of adolescent angst themselves.

US Fiction

“Beauty Mark” – Appreciated what this tale of child abuse and the scars it leaves wanted to say, but the execution almost felt like it was victimizing the films’ victim all over again.  Meaning tough single mom Auden Thornton, after being abused as a child, is faced with taking care of a caustic ailing mother of her own, becoming a stripper to make ends meet and even groveling for money help from the gent who abused her (the creepy since his Out Of Bounds days Jeff Kober) and it’s difficult to watch to say the least.  I get that filmmaker Harris Doran may have been going for a heavy film feel to drive home the sick subject matter, but the film leaves an unshakeable movie mark that never provides a moment of cinematic solace – uncomfortable is an understatement.

“And Then I Go” – While Gus Van Sant’s Elephant was a deep dramatic exercise in exploring the life of characters who decide to turn to violence, And Then I Go feels like Elephant’s less skilled red-headed stepchild.  Riddled with character clichés (lead kid Sawyer Barth is a hothead – even to his own friends!), bad casting (how could Melanie Lynskey and Justin Long be bad parents – they scream we care!) and an uneventful climax that seemingly exists for shock value, the overly-long And Then I Go goes the way of uninspired typical teen angst to make the grade – it fails.


Only a few days left in LAFF 2017 so get your theater chair butt down to the fest pronto and catch some cinematic hidden gems of your own – the magic of the movies awaits!


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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