LA Film Festival 2017 – Final Film Reviews

The films have unspooled, the curtain is about to come down and even here at WhySoBlu.com we’re officially winding down our very comprehensive coverage of the LA Film Festival 2017.  It’s been an awesome entertaining affair with ups, downs and most importantly an all out celebration of all things indie cinema.  Trying to procure as many flicks under the viewing belt as possible below are the final nine titles dissected and given their respective critical skinny.  Unique zombie tales, forest fright nights, strange neighbors, missing husbands, colorful comedies, road trips flicks, the traps of being a new parent, witness thrillers and one damn disappointing doc on the late Whitney Houston make up the encapsulated reviews below of It Stains The Sands Red, Desolation, The Neighbor, And Then There Was Eve, Fat Camp, Your Own Road, 20 Weeks, Never Here and Nick Broomfield’s Whitney: Can I Be Me.


“It Stains The Sands Red” – For a film that has a jerky tone and at times seems somewhat directionless, the beauty within this zombie flick turns out to be an unconventional relationship between a weary spirited gal and her following hungry undead suitor as they make their way across the desert.  (Think a more raw version of Warm Bodies for the non-feeling zombie set!)  It’s an odd couple teaming that provides both laughs (Brittany Allen nicknames her sole flesh hungry companion ‘Smalls’ implying small phallus!) and food for thought (the two develop a complicated relationship!) that gives the film a leg up in a genre that has become increasingly monotonous.  It does take a while to get started and the ending is a tad contrived, but this is one walker stalker story worth watching.

“Desolation” – Beyond being void of any real scares and cool carnage, I was dumbfounded as to what the point of Desolation as a movie was.  Meaning within its exploration of family themes like spousal death and teenage angst all alongside a outdoors deadly threat setting, what was the film trying to say?  To stay on the path in the forest?  To not underestimate the power of an adolescent?  Or perhaps just to not talk to or cross strangers who wear mirrored sunglasses and have no motive for their dark deeds whatsoever?  (In this case it’s not cool to be unaware of the killers purpose – it’s just a glaring black plot hole!)  No matter what the thought behind Sam Patton’s anti-climatic horror outing one thing is for sure – creepy moments thrown together without an interesting story structure is the fastest way to ensure viewer desolation.

“The Neighbor” – Being in the mindset and living the adventures of a crazed insane psychotic man who develops a fixation on his neighbors for a massive 76 minutes via the film The Neighbor makes for one seriously arduous cinematic experience.  Shooting with chaotic style, jarringly changing film formats on a regular basis and playing with elements of time and order, filmmaker Giancarlo Ruiz is obviously trying to use all of the above to get the viewer in the headspace of his lead characters demented state, but that doesn’t make the film any less taxing to take.  Void of any real enjoyment, The Neighbor feels like an uninvited acquaintance who’s worn out their welcome.

LA Muse Competition

“And Then There Was Eve” – What gave me pause about the movie mysteries within And Then There Was Eve was how easily and early they became obvious – even to a viewer who isn’t looking.  (I normally shut my brain off when it comes to guessing twists and turns just to be on the safe side!)  Plus the film seems to reveal said secrets in advance of the main characters revelations, which provides a weird inconsistency in story perspective that feels jarring.  But amidst the above there is solid work here from both lady leads Tania Nolan and Rachel Crowl and their plight – which should have been shown and dissected right from frame one – is one curious conundrum that makes And Then There Was Eve a thought-provoking tale to tell.

“Fat Camp” – Priding itself on highlighting the lowest form of hilarious base humor that’s distinctively un-PC, there’s quite a few big belly laughs in Fat Camp.  The torrid tale of a charismatic in shape loser who is forced to help overweight kids via a fitness camp has all the familiar ‘believe in yourself’ trimmings, but there’s also plenty of naughty bits to upset the been there, done that apple cart.  Not that the film doesn’t fall flat in some of its vulgar humor, sight gags and double entendres,  but there’s just so much of it coming at a fast and furious pace that laughs are all but guaranteed.

“Your Own Road” – While Your Own Road has a familiar ‘road trip to find yourself’ theme that’s been done to death, there are still a few interesting notables that make it worth checking out.  The chemistry between straight-laced quirky friend Amir Malaklou and free-love hitchhiking dame Kym Jackson is off the charts funny and hot (they should have had their own film!) and lead man Ashton Moio himself has a few sincere moments.  (His final speech is a damn good one!)  But ultimately it’s the captivating turn by damaged girl next door Cortney Palm that proves to be the hidden gem of the film. Whether taking a moment of sullen solo contemplation or playing a raw game of stripping for honest answers, Palm’s haunting work has a can’t take you eyes off it quality that makes this recognizable road trip real and risky.

US Fiction

“20 Weeks” – I get that this film about the complexities of having a child within a relationship wants to portray real dramatic moments, but frankly 20 Weeks is a real downer.  Watching both their dreams and relationship crumble when they find out their baby has serious birth deficiencies in the womb, leads Amir Arison and Anna Margret Hollyman take the audience through some of worst couple confrontations possible for a film that seems happy wallowing in tough times.  A cautionary tale with no happy endings (and a wasted Jocelin Donahue!), 20 Weeks sadly feels like 20 years.

“Never Here” – A familiar premise – a gal decides to become the eyewitness to an attack her married lover saw – is not given it’s due in this sub-par psychological thriller that has the audience scratching its head…and not in a good way.  There are so many twists, so many turns and so many fake outs that Never Here never really has a hold on a single engaging storyline that the audience can follow.  Even the cast seems foggy on their intentions and characters purpose – like Lynch players minus a visionary genius at the helm.  Riddled in a collection of complexities that make enjoyment impossible, Never Here never delivers.


“Whitney: Can I Be Me” – In what can only be described as a uninspired and safe exposé on late performer Whitney Houston, Nick Broomfield (co-directing with Rudi Dolezai – drop him like a bad habit Nick!) all but abandons his signature style of tough questions and digging deep for a doc that provides no new insight whatsoever.  Broomfield, who prides himself on getting notable tidbits from even the smallest of acquaintances, turns a lazy eye and phones it in here by including so much on-stage footage of Houston singing that the piece felt more like a concert film than a doc.  But the worst atrocity that makes this one a zero stars outing to truly avoid like the plague is that with no voice narration or on-camera inclusion, Whitney: Can I Be Me is missing the one thing that all true die-hard fans have come to love and expect from a Nick Broomfield documentary – Nick Broomfield.  (I said that my #1 film for 2016, the damn fine doc Tickled, carried the “Nick Broomfield seal of approval” – I meant EARLY Nick Broomfield!)

That’s all folks!  Thanks so much for checking out of LA Film Festival 2017 coverage and well see you next year!


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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