LA Film Festival 2018 – Twenty First Film Reviews

Head’s up – LA is in full film fest mode fans!  That’s right cinefiles, the prestigious and uber-diverse Los Angeles Film Festival 2018  taking place September 20-28 at various Arclight Cinemas and other movie houses around LA (hit up www.lafilmfestival.com for info!) is in full swing and there’s a little something for everybody.  (Retro screenings go from Half Baked to Mystic Pizza – it’s a wide cinematic spectrum for sure!)  Both the Coleman’s – the younger critic Jason and his elder film father Michael – have been burning the midnight movie oil to get those interested the skinny on what the fest has to offer this year.  So to get things started the Coleman’s combined are presenting a massive twenty feature-film reviews below right off the bat (oh, there’s even more coming people!) to get Indie freaks in the mood.  From tales of quirky disenchantment to murder mysteries with a soft porn edge, there are Jason and Michael’s…First Film Reviews!

Jason Coleman’s Reviews



“Tea With The Dames” – A frequently light but at times also emotionally deep dissection of four iconic acting dames Dame Eileen Atkins, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Joan Plowright, and Dame Maggie Smith as they chat career and life for fans.  All have their share of ups, downs and funny stories (though Smith is most assuredly the sarcastic quick wit of the group!), but best in show is talk of the turbulence of Laurence Olivier from Plowright as a wife and Smith as a co-star – two very different viewpoints that are equally fascinating and revealing to hear.

“Ride” – This may be Collateral for the millennial generation, but the story focus in Ride is seriously lacking.  Is the film about watching out whom you give an uber ride too?  Maybe a tale of reaching your potential or not missing important opportunities in life?  But in the end it’s nothing more than a tepid thriller with an obvious villain and one wholly unsatisfying ending – try walking to work guys.


World Fiction

“The Day I Lost My Shadow” – This Syrian set drama is a deeply dismal tale of a mom out looking for gas to heat her place and the struggles she encounters getting back to her young son who is home alone.  While the setting and locations are authentic feeling enough, to say this sad story inspires hope at any point is wishful thinking at best.  Not for those looking for joy or happiness in their tall tales, viewing Shadow is strictly somber single serving cinema.

“Socrates” – A truly dark and depressing tale of a 15-year-old boy in São Paulo who must navigate the hardships of the world alone after his mother passes in her sleep.  Making money any way he can, avoiding his abusive father and dealing with being gay amongst the judgmental are just a few of the obstacles facing the bombarded Socrates – and that’s just for openers.  Problem with the film is that it spends most of its time in dim places and sadly never provides any redemption for it’s lead character.  Life is hard – watching this movie is harder.


LA Muse

“Stuntman” – A terrifically constructed doc that features the journey of professional stuntman Eddie Braun as he tries to follow in the footsteps of his hero Evel Knievel and successfully attempt the famed Snake River Canyon rocket jump that Knievel didn’t make.  While the story itself could have been trimmed down to a short length, it’s the genius of helmer Kurt Mattila that he weaves a tasty high anticipation tale that easily sustains the docs full-length.  An underdog tale with all the trimmings, under the watchful eye of Matilla Stuntman soars.

“The Advocates” – While the issue of utter mass homelessness in LA is not news (especially for us who live here), what does give this doc some new life is the focus on folks who have taken it upon themselves to provide what the government and city officials have continued to refuse to do – help.  As the little guy saviors of this story, the Monday Night Mission, LA on Cloud9 and Housing Works get their full doc due here as we see both the ups and frequent downs in their struggle to both help and stay sane.  A raw portrait of the toll it takes to give back, The Advocates is about people who care no matter what the cost.

“El Chicano” – With a satisfying somber superhero story tone that reminded me of Spawn, El Chicano is a decent Latino vigilante origin tale.  And while it begins as more of a detective yarn we’ve seen before, it quickly jumps into the mysterious masked man stuff and goes into the savory realm of kicking some serious bad guy ass.  A hero that’s not a Marvel movie cutout, El Chicano proves protectors come in all colors.



“Mamacita” – While the construction of Mamacita is a tad clunky, it’s the fascinating revelations within the doc that make it one to watch.  Deciding to finally chronicle the life of his aging 95-year-old grandmother Mamacita, filmmaker Jose Pablo Estrada Torrescano starts off his dissection as a standard family piece but soon gets swept into dark secrets and shocking truths that hit both he and the audience like a freight train.  A great example of how the past molds who one will become, Mamacita definitely delivers both truth and consequences.



“Song Of Back and Neck” – Song Of Back And Neck is one unusual and utterly original five-star outing via Paul Lieberstein, who pulls triple duty as writer, director and star.  The captivating tale of a ho-hum regular guy with seriously debilitating back and neck problems who is forced to examine life, love and his dead-end job manages to incorporate comedy (all wonderfully wry thanks to Lieberstein’s low-key delivery!), romance (his chemistry with leading lady Rosemarie DeWitt is off the charts!) and thoughtful reflection (his work with acupuncture takes him to some mystical mind places!) which is a real feat for a film so simple in concept.  Lieberstein has managed to do the impossible – provide complete cinematic cures for what ails every film fan.

“Sadie” – While the story of Sadie is a solid one, the execution is a tad messy.  Meaning I dug following the adventures of spirited 13-year-old Sadie, played with moody moxie by Sophia Mitri Schloss, as she tries to foil suitors who make moves on her mom while her father is serving overseas.  But somewhere along the line the film turns a tad too dark and weaves into evil teen territory.  It’s a shame because the beauty of Sadie is watching the lead character’s creativity – killing ain’t clever kids.

“Galveston” – A standard story that sees Ben Foster’s surly hitman saving and getting saddled with Elle Fanning’s working girl and the two then go on the lamb – plus a pinch of revenge and redemption are thrown in for good measure.  The story never really rises above its basic nature and thus it makes all characters hard to root for, but in the end it’s Foster’s powerhouse turn that makes the genre familiar Galveston much better than it should be – his work works wonders here.



“The Dead Center” – A creative concept that sees a recently deceased man coming back to life in a mental hospital and his over-caring doctor trying to figure out his possible mayhem-laced mystery before it’s too late.  Problem is there is so much down time between scenes of creative carnage and the truth is revealed so late in the game that fans barely have time to embrace the evil altogether – Dead Center could have used a demonic defibrillator early on.

“Ghost Light” – What starts as a fun-filled riff on the old Shakespearean Macbeth curse featuring a goofy cast of characters Clue style (friggin’ Cary Elwes is the ham fisted lead!), sadly turns unneededly serious and forgets what was endearing to the audience in the first place.  Not that the idea itself isn’t without possibility for having more sober moments, but when the comedy completely dries up is when the lights go down.

“Thriller” – The first crappy Blumhouse outing (even Truth Or Dare was mildly entertaining!) that proves that even with a diverse cast a sub-par story still stinks.  Recycling the kid shaming themes in Prom Night and matching it with the murder mystery of Scream 2, Thriller is about as gamey as it gets.  From icons spouting shameful dialogue (Mykelti Williamson of Final Destination fame scolds one character in the film as ‘sounding like a white girl in a horror movie!’) to plot holes and character issues galore, this one doesn’t even manage to be scary by accident.  (The folks I saw it with were laughing – and not at the places you would expect!)  Taking a step back from the poignancy of Get Out, Blumhouse’s South Central set Thriller is anything but.


Michael Coleman’s Reviews



“We Have Always Lived In The Castle” – A kind of play on the cinematic period piece about a weird family living in a mansion in a town where everyone hates and torments them.  The story itself had possibilities and was kicked up a notch by the arrival of a nefarious cousin played by Sebastian Stan but sadly fades to black when the most interesting character, sparklingly played by expert wacko Crispin Glover, goes MIA.  (Though a little Glover goes a long way!)

“Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl” – Not being an expert on all modern music, I had never heard of Kate Nash.  But this detailed doc follows the musical British sensation and indie pop/garage punk star as she tries to take it to the next level by moving to LA.  Being fleeced by an unscrupulous manager, hocking her belongings and trying to get her dough back in court are just a few of the salacious highlights of this cautionary tale.  The film comes full circle to the Tinsel Town happy ending, but not before a few music video style performances between life on the road, at home and in the studio that’s all together average entertainment.


US Fiction

“This Teacher” – What starts as a drama about visiting a childhood friend in the city turns into a disjointed series of “shorts” in the woods that appear to be unconnected except for the main character herself. For all the teaching rather than entertaining this is one class I would have skipped.


LA Muse

“Making Montgomery Clift” – For all classical film fans, this is a fascinating portrait of an iconic film star and actor.  Put together by Clift’s nephew Robert, who scoured over decades of family archives of news clippings, audiotapes and home movies saved by family.  Despite the detailed dissection, the doc still fell short of the answer of why Monty Clift was such an enigma, following in the mysterious footsteps of the man and myth himself.

“Staycation” – A millennial couple stays at home for a vacation to explore their relationship.  With decent brief humor at the beginning it eventually deteriorates with a series of cheap vignettes and a bevy of unneeded outdoor shots.  Poor direction, a bad script and a pointless threesome sequence makes this one a progressive mess from beginning to end.



“Deep Murder” – Combining pre-XXX soft porn film with a pinch of Agatha Christie, Deep Murder is a gem that works as a comedy and B-movie slasher flick.  The setting is fun, the cast is true to over-the-top soft porn stereotypes and special effects will leave any horror flick fan satisfied – kudos all round.


Stay with us for further coverage of the 2018 LA Film Festival and don’t forget to get out and support local cinema – 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.

  1. No Comments