Fools – Movie Review – Dances with Films

Fools is the story of Sam (Michael Szales) and Susan (Mary Cross). The movie opens when the two meet by chance when their hands brush against each other on a Chicago El Train. Sam and Susan are a pair of loners. Susan currently lives with an aggressive roommate that does not treat her well. Sam moves from job to job unable to find one that he feels qualified to hold.

Dances With Films Film Festival (World Premiere)
Writer: Benjamin Meyer
Director: Benjamin Meyer
Cast: Mary Cross, Michael Szales, Rebecca Spense

Sam soon finds a job delivering groceries to shut-in and neglected seniors. With an open heart, Sam goes above and beyond the call of duty and helps his customers with chores and a little conversation. Susan, on the other hand, is literally on the street after her roommate evicts her. Sam allows Susan to live with him in his apartment. Sam soon discovers that Susan is a handful. She’s apparently a princess and must be treated as such. Clearly afraid of conflict, Sam finds himself making us stories to appease not only Princess Susan but also to connect with some of his elderly clients.

It’s not hard to see that Fools is a love story. But Fools also explores the idea that as people, we often lie about our past to make ourselves look better to others or to avoid conflict. For example, Susan lies to her old roommate about a boyfriend she doesn’t have to avoid the feeling of loneliness being single. Also, is Susan lying about being a princess to cope with her newfound homelessness?

What about Sam? During a conversation with one of his clients, Mr. Hill, Sam poses as his estranged son to bring closure to Hill’s pent up regret.

Ultimately, is there a point in our lying that we start believing our own lies? Filmmaker Benjamin Meyer explores this issue extensively in Fools. We’ve all been there. We’ve padded our resume a little, and then we pad it a lot for that extra pizzazz. Soon we start to believe our own hype.

Fools is an unusual love story. The movie starts uncomfortable because you know that Sam is in trouble the moment he opens his world to Susan. But as the movie progresses, it’s hard not to sympathize with Sam. Although you’ll cringe at the point of crisis in his life, you can’t help but root for him on the back end. If you’re interested in the premise of how we lie to ourselves and others, you’ll enjoy Fools. If you’re willing to witness a movie that’s more insightful than your typical love story, then hang on for the ride and be surprised.

The Last Treasure Hunt – Movie Review – Dances With Films

You can choose your friends, but you can never choose your family. The friends you chose can help shape and guide your character and your future. Your family will always shape and guide your future for good or for bad.

Dances With Films entrant, The Last Treasure Hunt is the story of siblings, Oliver (Casey Nelson) and Lucy (Kate Murdoch). After a long estrangement, Oliver and Lucy’s eccentric father passes away leaving them the valuable family home on a small New York island. But to receive their inheritance, Oliver and Lucy must take part in a final treasure hunt. A hunt that has been an annual family tradition from childhood.

Dances With Films 2015
Writer: Kate Murdoch & Casey Nelson
Director: Patrick Biesemans
Cast: Kate Murdoch, Casey Nelson, Jeff Grace

Fortunately for audiences, the movie is not about solving a treasure hunt. It’s about facing the barriers family members build between one another to gain independence. It’s also these barriers that often keep us from growing and maturing as adults.

Oliver is the hard working so-to-be family man, who left behind the childish games of his father and the childishness of his sister. Lucy is the girl, who has not yet crossed into the world of adulthood and is doomed to remain daddy’s girl. The two are now forced to work together in hopes of rebuilding, what was once a family. As with most family, pride gets in the way of the family dynamic.

The Last Treasure Hunt is an endearing tale of family, set on a beautiful beach island in New York. Writers/stars Casey Nelson and Kate Murdoch convincingly tell the tale of two squabbling siblings. Their arguments and petty bickering feel real and their inability to get along feels tragic and real.

Jeff Grace also brings much-needed humor to the film as Cousin Alfred. Alfred was the odd-man out of the family trio and often the target of the other’s harmless pranks. Cousin Alfred is also the only family member to remain on the island and offers to purchase the home from the other two.

Director Patrick Biesemans does a masterful job with the pacing and storytelling duties for this independent movie. Cinematographer Michael Ormiston makes the most of his natural surroundings and shoots a beautiful looking movie.

The Last Treasure Hunt’s West Coast premiere was at Dances with Films. To see the film, go to TheLastTreasureHuntMovie.com or Facebook.com/TheLastTreasureHuntMovie

The Big Lonely – Movie Review – Dances with Films 2015

The Big Lonely follows the life of Michael Nelms and his dog, Tic. Michael is a homeless man who, rather than live under a bridge or in a big city alley, live in a self-built cabin 60 miles into an Oregon forest.

The movie not only documents Michael’s life for about nine months and through a brutal winter but also serves as his personal diary. The entire movie was shot and recorded by Michael without the supervision of any third person. The only subjects in The Big Lonely are Michael, dog Tic and you the viewer.

Dances With Films Entrant
Writer:
David Manougian
Director: David Manougian
Cast/Subject: Michael Nelms

The movie tells two parallel stories. The first story is one of survival. Every day, Michael has to find food, get drinking water from a well and cope with loneliness. The movie starts with the coming of a particularly harsh winter. When the weather gets cold, Michael must stay warm and decide if he is going to brave the elements to get much-needed water and food. As the temperature drops to sub-zero degrees, food and water become more and more scarce. At one point, Michael must make a 60-mile trek in the dead of winter to a nearby town to find small odd jobs and buy enough food for another year. This is a trip he does not want to make. First, because of the cold winter’s snow and second, the nearby town does not want him on its streets.

The second story is Michael himself. For a man living in isolation, he is a fascinating man. Before becoming homeless, Michael Nelms was a business man and a realtor. After his divorce, the state went after him for child support. After receiving a letter that he had fulfilled his support obligation, the state went after him again for more money. Ignoring the first letter, the state took away his driver’s license and Michael is now unable to work and find any employment.

Now living in the Oregon woods, Michael is reflective about his past and the events that lead to his current situation. He can enjoy and embrace the beauty of his natural surroundings to the point of being amazingly philosophical and poetic with his words. Looking at the amazing green forest landscape, Michael calls it “Poverty with a view.” Then there’s his future, Michael lives in an annual cycle of survival. His sole purpose in life is to make it to the next day and through the next winter. He fights with himself in hopes of not crossing the line into hopelessness. He is unable to see a future where his situation gets better.

Writer/Director David Manougian does a magnificent job piecing together hundreds of hours of Michael’s video diary. He paints a story that makes you feel Michael’s struggle in the coldest winter. You are engaged with Michael’s story and fall in love with the beauty of the American outdoors. You will be touched and challenged with The Big Lonely.

For more information about The Big Lonely and future screenings, visit TheBigLonely.com.

Hot Pursuit – Movie Review

Hot Pursuit starts with a simple idea. Let’s team up the diverse ends of Hollywood’s hot list, Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara. We should be excited about this team-up, but the movie just does not live up to its potential.

Release Date: May 8, 2015
Rated PG-13
Writer: David Feeney
Director: Anne Fletcher
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Sofia Vergara

Hot Pursuit 04In Hot Pursuit, Reese Witherspoon is Officer Cooper. Cooper is an ambitious, by-the-book police officer banished to the evidence locker after tazing the Mayor’s son because he called “shotgun” with his friends at a party. Sofia Vergara is Daniella Riva, the wife of a mob informant. Daniella and her husband, Felipe (Vincent Laresca) are in witness protection and about to testify against the mob boss, Vincente Cortez (Joaquin Cosio).

Of course, things go wrong, and Cooper and Riva are on the run hiding from mob enforcers and corrupt police officers. During this “tense” journey, our heroines start off as adversaries, eventually handcuffed together, forced to see the world through one another’s eyes, betray each other and then come to respect the other. In the end, they become the best of friends. Yep nothing new.

I had a few issues with the characters. As a police officer, there is a moment when Cooper can’t climb out of a bathroom window because she lacks upper-body strength. That feels a little insulting to actual female police officers. Vergara plays the wife of a rich mob enforcer. She’s running away from killers but insist of toting a suitcase of expensive shoes. Really? This is a smart comedy? Let’s through this out there. What if you switch the roles of Vergara and Witherspoon? That would be more interesting than this mess.

Hot Pursuit is a formulaic buddy movie with nothing original for the film fan. The script is not very funny. The acting is decent. Fans of Witherspoon and Vergara will have a mildly good time watching the movie played in the background on the television as they get housework done.

Today, audiences expect more from a movie. Hot Pursuit fails as a story. It’s not smart and barely takes advantage of the comedic potential of putting Witherspoon and Vergara in a movie together. As actors, there is no challenge to show why they are good at their craft. It’s almost as if filmmakers just assumed that if you put these two actresses together the result will be an amazing film. Instead, we have an uninspired movie that will get lost on a large shelf of buddy movies. If you want to see a well thought out buddy movie, then grab Lethal Weapon.

Marvel Universe Live – Orange County Event Review

Marvel Universe LIVE! features the greatest collection of Marvel Super Heroes and Villains ever to assemble in one place! The cast will include Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Spider-Man, Black Widow, Storm, Wolverine, Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Falcon, Black Cat, Maria Hill, Captain Marvel, Cyclops, Loki, Green Goblin, Rhino, Doc Ock, Lizard, Electro, Red Skull, Chitauri Warriors, Aldrich Killian and Madame Hydra.

The show will center on the Cosmic Cube, an all-powerful item that’s split into pieces by Thor to keep it out of the hands of evildoers. However, that doesn’t stop his trickster brother Loki from devising a plan to clone the Cube’s powers and threaten the universe.

Alan and the Kid review Marvel Universe Live’s performance at the Honda Center.

This Isn’t Funny – Movie Review

This Isn’t Funny is the love story of Eliot Anderson (Katie Page) and Jaimie Thompson (Paul Ashton). It is also a testament to the power of the independent film. If you have a good story to tell; a small budget; and backers, who believe in you, the final product is funny, well-thought out story.

Newport Beach Film Festival
Running Time: 86 minutes
Writers: Paul Ashton, Katie Page
Director: Paul Ashton

Eliot is a young adult, who takes a healthy dose of psych medication in order to cope. She is a talented stand-up comedian by night and struggles to remain balanced during the day. Jaime runs a Juice Shop in Los Angeles.  Having achieved nothing in life, the perpetual traveler Jaime believes he is a failure in life. Elliot and Jaime meet when Jaime crashes his bike into Eliot’s parked car.

Under hostile circumstances, Eliot and Jaime fall in love and immediately clash. While their love is sweet, it’s clear they press each other’s button. Their problem is Eliot and Jaime are pressing the right buttons, but the expected result is emotionally disastrous.

This isnt funny 02This Isn’t Funny is a thoughtful story of love in the day of heightened anxiety and first world problems. The story of Eliot and Jaime is elevated even higher by the best supporting cast I’ve seen in a movie. Eliot’s parents, Joseph (David Pasquesi) and Elaine (Mimi Rogers) are sympathetic characters, who have learned to walk on eggshells around Eliot’s “moment.”

Eliot’s best friends are also stand-up comedians. Russ (Ahmed Bharoocha) and Hannah (Beth Sterling) not only serve as comedic foils to Eliot, but also produce the funniest stand-up moments in the movie. Be sure to stay during the credits and catch Ahmed’s stand-up routine. Trust me it’s worth the price of the movie.

Jaime’s employees offer no help to Jamie at all except for their friendship. Ryan (Edi Gathegi) wishes Jaime would stay in one place. Jaime’s other friend, Mike (Anthony LaPaglia) is all over the place. Mike is a semi-effeminate, always-high friend of Jamie, and you won’t recognize that it’s Anthony LaPaglia until late in the movie.

This Isn’t Funny is a movie of hope. By the end, you hope these two kids can get their “stuff” together and be happy together.

This Isn’t Funny – Movie Review

This Isn’t Funny is the love story of Eliot Anderson (Katie Page) and Jaimie Thompson (Paul Ashton). It is also a testament to the power of the independent film. If you have a good story to tell; a small budget; and backers, who believe in you, the final product is funny, well-thought out story.

Newport Beach Film Festival
Running Time: 86 minutes
Writers: Paul Ashton, Katie Page
Director: Paul Ashton

Eliot is a young adult, who takes a healthy dose of psych medication in order to cope. She is a talented stand-up comedian by night and struggles to remain balanced during the day. Jaime runs a Juice Shop in Los Angeles.  Having achieved nothing in life, the perpetual traveler Jaime believes he is a failure in life. Elliot and Jaime meet when Jaime crashes his bike into Eliot’s parked car.

Under hostile circumstances, Eliot and Jaime fall in love and immediately clash. While their love is sweet, it’s clear they press each other’s button. Their problem is Eliot and Jaime are pressing the right buttons, but the expected result is emotionally disastrous.

This isnt funny 02This Isn’t Funny is a thoughtful story of love in the day of heightened anxiety and first world problems. The story of Eliot and Jaime is elevated even higher by the best supporting cast I’ve seen in a movie. Eliot’s parents, Joseph (David Pasquesi) and Elaine (Mimi Rogers) are sympathetic characters, who have learned to walk on eggshells around Eliot’s “moment.”

Eliot’s best friends are also stand-up comedians. Russ (Ahmed Bharoocha) and Hannah (Beth Sterling) not only serve as comedic foils to Eliot, but also produce the funniest stand-up moments in the movie. Be sure to stay during the credits and catch Ahmed’s stand-up routine. Trust me it’s worth the price of the movie.

Jaime’s employees offer no help to Jamie at all except for their friendship. Ryan (Edi Gathegi) wishes Jaime would stay in one place. Jaime’s other friend, Mike (Anthony LaPaglia) is all over the place. Mike is a semi-effeminate, always-high friend of Jamie, and you won’t recognize that it’s Anthony LaPaglia until late in the movie.

This Isn’t Funny is a movie of hope. By the end, you hope these two kids can get their “stuff” together and be happy together.