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LAFF Review: ‘The Young Kieslowski’ A Welcome And Charming Teen Comedy Surprise

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • June 25, 2014 5:04 PM
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The Young Kieslowski
Blind knowledge is probably the best state in which to see “The Young Kieslowski” – not for fear of any plot spoilers, but because its quick synopsis might actually repel viewers before seeing a single frame. Following a geeky college student loses his virginity and impregnates his first girlfriend in one fell swoop -- as “Obvious Child” recently explored, such a premise surrounding that aftermath requires a skillful execution, and initially it seems like director Kerem Sanga’s second feature won’t take a similar consideration.

LAFF Review: Spike Lee-Produced ‘Evolution Of A Criminal’ Details Cycles Of Poverty & Crime In Director Darius Monroe’s Life

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • June 24, 2014 5:04 PM
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Evolution of a Criminal
However muddled the line between reality and fiction stands in any documentary, an extra pause for skepticism occurs when the filmmaker steps in front of the camera. Darius Clarke Monroe’s “Evolution of a Criminal” presents an especially complicated form of that concern: the director casts a younger version of himself, stages a stylized depiction of a bank robbery that he and two others pulled while in high school, and then leaves the camera recording while he seeks forgiveness, ten years later, from those whose lives he altered forever.

LAFF Review: ‘Cut Bank’ Traps John Malkovich, Bruce Dern, Liam Hemsworth, Teresa Palmer & More In Half-Baked Caper

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • June 24, 2014 2:31 PM
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Cut Bank
Cut Bank, Montana might be the last place we’d expect to witness an “Office Space” reference, and yet halfway through “Cut Bank” there it is—actor Michael Stuhlbarg asking after a parcel just as Stephen Root’s Milton did with a stapler. The line is meant as a source of both laughs and menace, but the minute Stuhlbarg’s villainous get-up lumbers into frame—heavy-lensed glasses, trucker hat, grimy fingernails—to a sting usually reserved for Jason Voorhees, we know towards which side of the spectrum director Matt Shakman’s leans. It’s just a shame that screenwriter Rodrigo Patino’s Black List script cribs from twenty other sources besides Mike Judge, planting accomplished actors in a dozy small town caper that never gains a sense of location or thrills.

LAFF Review: 'Comet' Starring Justin Long And Emmy Rossum Is An Original & Inventive Love Story

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • June 22, 2014 10:18 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Comet
It’s not always easy to pull off high concept romantic dramas, or to futz with the format of what could be a straightforward boy-meets-girl breakup/makeup story, but in staying grounded, and real, “Comet,” directed by Sam Esmail and starring Justin Long and Emmy Rossum, manages to do just that. Jumping in between six different, specific time periods in the relationship of Dell (Long) and Kimberly (Rossum), “Comet” weaves the story of a relationship that anyone who’s ever asked “what if?” can relate to.

LAFF Review: 'Meet The Patels' A Funny, Fresh Take On Family And Finding Love

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • June 21, 2014 9:00 AM
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Meet The Patels
Most singles in their 20s and 30s can relate to having parents push them on the marriage issue — Ravi Patel’s are just a bit more vocal about it. In a documentary co-directed with his sister, filmmaker Geeta Patel, Ravi, a Los Angeles-based actor, bravely puts his dating life in the hands of his parents and on screen in the film “Meet the Patels.” A hilarious investigation into the culture of contemporary Indian-American matchmaking/marriage arranging practices, this doc about dating focuses on the importance of love, and especially the kind of love that exists in families.

LAFF Review: 'Lake Los Angeles' Is a Dreamy, Mystical Portrait of a Place Steeped in Harsh Realities

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • June 20, 2014 6:04 PM
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Lake Los Angeles
Director Mike Ott returns to the Los Angeles Film Festival with “Lake Los Angeles,” the third film in what has become known as his Antelope Valley trilogy. Following the dovetailing paths of an older male Cuban immigrant, and a young female Mexican immigrant, “Lake Los Angeles” is a dreamy slice of desert sun-baked magical realism. With captivating performances by the two leads, Roberto Sanchez and Johanna Trujillo, a hypnotic sound design, and light-saturated cinematography, Ott’s film casts a spell while also remaining firmly rooted in the realities of that life.

LAFF Review: 'Out In The Night' Tells Compelling, Powerful Story Of The New Jersey Four

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • June 18, 2014 3:02 PM
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Out In The Night
In 2007, four black lesbian women from New Jersey were sentenced to between 3 and 11 years in prison for varying degrees of gang assault against a man in New York City’s West Village. The New York Post and Daily News blared headlines about “bloodthirsty lesbians” and a “wolf pack,” and both the women’s sexuality and race were defining features of how the story was framed by the media and argued in the courtroom. “Out in the Night,” a documentary directed by blair dorosh-walter unpacks the real story of what happened that night and the subsequent consequences on the lives of the group of women known as the New Jersey Four.

LAFF Review: Haunting, Devastating 'Life And Mind Of Mark DeFriest' Depicts Prison Life Of Notorious Escape Artist

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • June 18, 2014 12:05 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Life And Mind Of Mark DeFriest
In the late 1970s, a 19-year-old Mark DeFriest caught four years in jail for picking up some tools before his father’s will was probated. His stepmother called the police, and Mark made a run for it, landing him in jail. Mark’s tendency to run has kept him there ever since. A compulsive (and talented) escape artist, DeFriest’s constant disciplinary infractions have extended his sentence to nearly 2080. The documentary “The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest,” the result of a 13-year effort by director Gabriel London, documents the horrific odyssey that DeFriest has made through the Florida prison system, a journey with no end in sight.

LAFF Review: ‘Nightingale’ Starring David Oyelowo Can’t Break Free From Form Despite Stunning Central Performance

  • By Charlie Schmidlin
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  • June 18, 2014 11:03 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Nightingale, David Oyelowo
There is no discussion of Elliott Lester’s “Nightingale” without David Oyelowo. The psychological drama is openly an actor’s showcase, subscribing to a single character and location with the same verve as its unavoidable soulmate, “Locke.” Like that film, it also turns to technology for sneaking a bit of exposition. An Iraq war veteran rants daily to the webcam on his bulky laptop; he mentions a video blog, which we never see, and his many followers, whom we realize likely don’t exist. But the choice to never confirm the matter either way poses the film’s most interesting question: among a million other disgruntled, grainy pleas to camera on YouTube, how simple would it be for an uploaded act of violence to pass by ignored?

LAFF Review: Nathan Silver's 'Uncertain Terms' An Affecting and Deftly Told Family Affair

  • By Katie Walsh
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  • June 17, 2014 2:12 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Uncertain Terms
Filmmaker Nathan Silver is on his fourth feature film in about as many years, and the latest, “Uncertain Terms,” continues in the style of naturalistic, bittersweet tales. It’s a family affair for Silver, as he often casts his mother, Cindy Silver, and in “Uncertain Terms” he even takes inspiration from her own life story. Silver the matriarch plays Carla, the proprietress of a home for pregnant teenagers, much like the one where she spent sometime as a teenager herself, and Silver the director/co-writer makes an appearance as her layabout son Lenny, whose cousin Robbie (David Dahlbom) shows up at a moment’s notice when his life gets turned upside down. The resulting film is a wry, oddly funny, but poignant work that showcases Silver’s laid-back, but effective cinematic storytelling style, and talent for shaping performances from non-traditional actors.

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