LA Film Fest

four dogs laff

Oliver (Oliver Cooper) is your typical twenty-something with big dreams but little motivation to really pursue them. He lives with his Aunt Becca (Rebecca Goldstein) and spends his days hanging out with his former acting classmate Dan (Dan Bakkedahl). Oliver is a sweet kid but also a dreamer who seems much too content wiling away his days doing random chores around the house and spending time with his friend. Four Dogs gives audiences a natural look into Oliver’s world without placing him in an overly complicated narrative or one surrounded by metaphors. However, this simple conceit works as Cooper delivers a captivating performance making Oliver awkward, funny and honest all at once. Cooper may be an “out of work actor,” but the different characters he tries out while bored at home show a real sense of comedic brilliance, proving Oliver may have some true talent and be more than a kid with stars in his eyes.


trailer short term 12

Editor’s note: Allison’s review of Short Term 12 originally ran during this year’s LAFF, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release. What kind of parent do you think you will be? That’s a big question, and one that usually doesn’t come up until you are actually face-to-face with the prospect. Grace (Brie Larson) works at a foster care facility, the eponymous Short Term 12, and is clearly in a loving (albeit not very well hidden) relationship with her boyfriend and fellow facility staff member, Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) But even though she works with kids all day, the idea of having one of her own has Grace completely spooked. This fear is not completely unsurprising considering the first few moments we spend in Short Term 12 see Mason telling a new hire, Nate (Rami Malek), a ridiculous story about his first day and a kid who tried to run away, only to then have one of the current kids burst through the front doors, hightailing it to the gates. Grace and Mason do not miss a beat in chasing down Sammy (Alex Calloway) and calming him down, but it becomes very clear in that moment that the residents of Short Term 12 are dealing with big issues of their own.


In a World Movie

Editor’s note: Allison’s review of In a World originally ran during this year’s LAFF, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release this weekend. Children naturally grow up wanting to be like their parents, and some actually do. Children of actors becoming actors, children of musicians becoming musicians, and I’m sure there are some children of accountants who become accountants. (Okay, maybe not that last one.) Carol (Lake Bell) wants to be a voice over actor, but not because her father, famous voice over actor Sam (Fred Melamed) is one, but because she understand the power of voice. Carol spends her days as a vocal coach (boasting Eva Longoria as one of her clients) and logging various accents into her archive of voices. Carol is kooky and a bit awkward (her outfits alone can tell you that), but she is also sweet and honest, in no way the shark you apparently need to be to make it as a voice over actor. In A World… takes audiences behind the scenes of voice over acting as the community “mourns” the death of the godfather of voice over acting, Don LaFontaine, by clamoring for a shot to take over the iconic, “In a world…” line. Even though his own daughter has aspirations to make a name for herself in the industry, Sam is instead grooming another up-and-coming voice over actor, Gustav (Ken Marino) for the job. Sam may not support his daughter’s career, but he also decides to stop supporting her, […]


review act of killing

Editor’s note: Our review of The Act of Killing originally ran during this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival, but we’re re-running it now as the movie opens in limited theatrical release. While everyone has experienced situations in which someone has upset us and we demand an apology, everyone also knows that you cannot truly force someone to apologize. The documentary The Act of Killing presents an almost social experiment exploring what happens when you give those who have done something terrible (in this case, killing thousands) a forum through which to tell their story to see if a new perspective changes their attitude. Back in 1960’s, Indonesia was riddled with “gangsters” and death squad leaders who persecuted and murdered thousands of alleged Communists throughout the region. The fear these unjust murders created is still alive today, with large paramilitary organizations like the Pancasila Youth continuing to grow in staggering numbers. The Act of Killing asks these former killers to make a movie about their experiences and then allows the film’s subjects to run the show from forcing friends and family to act in the film to selecting elaborate costumes.  The film focuses on Anwar Congo, a former gangster, who begins as a bit of a showboating caricature – a man proud of what he’s done and constantly talking about how he mirrored himself after the actors in the films he also scalped tickets for. Congo clearly has an interest in film and takes on the role of the director, explaining how the film needed comic […]


Crystal Fairy

Editor’s note: Our review of Crystal Fairy originally ran during this year’s L.A. Film Fest, but we’re re-posting it as the film opens in limited theatrical release this Friday. We all want to lose ourselves sometimes. To find those perfect moments where you do not have a care in the world and you feel close and in harmony with all those around you. But rarely can you manufacture or plan for these moments, they simply happen. Uptight and pretentious Jamie (Michael Cera) is a person who definitely needs a moment like this to loosen him up, but he is so desperate to achieve what he believe will be a transformative high, he is missing the possibly more meaningful moments leading up to it. Jamie is living abroad in Chile and his boorish behavior is the epitome of a “rude American.” He is entitled and says everything he is thinking, but his good natured roommate puts up with it, despite the fact that Jamie clearly only wants one thing from him – to drive him to the beach to finally imbibe in some San Pedro cactus.


venus vs

In 1968, Billie Jean King won the women’s singles championship at Wimbledon, but she only received £750 in prize money while the men’s singles champion won £2,000. From this moment on, King began advocating for all players to earn equal prize money at all the Grand Slam events, regardless of gender. Three out of these four major tournaments (the US Open, the French Open, and the Australian Open) agreed to this change, but Wimbledon continued to hold out, only slightly increasing the prize total for female players over the years but never making it equal to what the men were awarded. Then in 1994, a young player from South Central Los Angeles went pro and changed the sport forever. Gone were the days of women’s tennis being mainly a serve and volley game. At 6’3″, Venus Williams ushered in a new generation of female power players who competed with an intensity and drive equal to the males. This shift began to electrify the women’s game, making it just as popular as the men’s (if not more so in some years), and negated the theory that female players drew in less viewers and had fewer fans than their male counterparts, an idea some had used to justify the difference in pay.



Everyone knows a mouse and a bear cannot be friends. Or can they? Based on the children’s books of the same name, Ernest & Celestine is a lovely tale of what friendship and understanding truly means. Celestine (voiced by Pauline Brunner) is a tiny mouse living beneath the streets in France, forced to steal teeth from the bears living above ground in order to help her fellow mice keep their incisors (apparently the one thing giving them a leg up on the bears) sharp and reliable. But things are not all easy above ground, either, as “big, monstrous” bear Ernest (voiced by Lambert Wilson) has fallen on hard times and just wants something to eat. After her attempt to steal a newly lost tooth goes terribly wrong, Celestine finds herself trapped in a trash bin until Ernest finds her during his quest for food. While Celestine seems like a tasty treat to Ernest at first, she convinces him she knows where he can get a lot more (and a lot tastier) food, a favor she later calls upon when she needs Ernest’s help. Ernest may end up with a full belly and Celestine a full bag of teeth, but when it is revealed the two worked together to help each other, they are both run out of town.



The Perron family has a problem. They have just moved into a large, spacious farm house set off a beautiful lake, but around 3:07 every morning, something goes very wrong. Clocks stop, bad smells travel around the rooms, and doors creak and bang shut for no reason. But it is during a game of “hide and clap” that an unknown cellar is revealed and the mysterious occurrences around the house get worse. After one of her daughters is terrorized, Carolyn (Lili Taylor) realizes her family needs help. She seeks out two well-known paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga), with the hope they can figure out what, if anything, may be haunting her family. The moment Lorraine enters the Perrons’ home it becomes clear this family is not experiencing rational bumps in the night. The panicked truth playing behind Lorraine’s eyes while she tries to keep her composure showcases Farmiga’s ability to create a layered and captivating performance while amplifying the terror.


The Crash Reel

Director Lucy Walker‘s The Crash Reel gives audiences a front row seat to some of the most death-defying snowboarding tricks from the world’s top snowboarders, but does so along with an unflinching look at what can happen when the smallest thing goes wrong. Professional snowboarder Kevin Pearce was at the top of his game back in 2009, consistently beating out fellow snowboarder Shaun White at competitions, and was poised to become the newest member of the U.S. Olympic team. After hearing that White had created a private course to train on, Pearce decides to do the same, but unlike White, he invites all his friends and join in on the fun. What starts out as a carefree trip quickly turns tragic when a trick gone wrong has Pearce landing face first off a half-pipe, and his friends scrambling to get him help. After falling into a coma, friends and family worry that the Pearce who wakes up will not be the same person they know and love. But Pearce is still full of the same fire and determination that made him such a great athlete. (Just now with shorter hair.) However it quickly becomes clear (and concerning) that Pearce’s goal post-Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is not to simply get better, it is to get back on his board.


Atticus Ross

One of the staples of the Los Angeles Film Festival is the festival’s Coffee Talk series which bring together top names in the industry to discuss their craft and offer inside insights on what it is like to be a working director, screenwriter, actor, or composer. This year’s “Coffee Talks: Composers” panel featured The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo composer, Atticus Ross, John Dies at the End and Iron Man 3 composer, Brian Tyler, and Zombieland and End of Watch composer, David Sardy. It was an interesting panel with Tyler and Sardy sharing the experience of composing for big budget films while Ross had avoided some of those studio pressures to pave his own way through the industry. All three have different backgrounds with Ross coming from a band member’s perspective, Sardy a music producer’s perspective, and Tyler from an indie film into big blockbuster perspective, making the moments where the three agreed and disagreed all the more meaningful. Here are 10 things we learned.


Europa Report

Many films have tackled the question of whether we’re alone in the universe, but instead of having looming space ships hover over earth or astronauts coming into contact with terrifying beings from other planets, Europa Report presents the much more likely concept of signs of life on one of Jupiter’s moons. The Europa Report was a mission that brought together an elite group of international scientists, engineers, and a pilot who wanted to go further than anyone had before to explore that moon and see if there were signs of life developing on (or under) the surface. When those in charge of the mission on the ground report that the exploratory crew went missing for nearly a year after all communication suddenly went dark, the mystery of what happened up there finds the spotlight. The narrative then switches perspective to the ship where those on board  decide to continue with the mission, even as those on the ground presume they’re dead. What they discover is a captivating mix of believable and beautiful elements, but when one of the crew members (Karolina Wydra) comments on the inspiring, undisturbed world, it quickly becomes clear that they should have left it that way.


Maya Rudolph

Friday night during the Los Angeles Film Festival, the talented (and 8 months pregnant) Maya Rudolph sat down with LACMA curator and host of KCRW’s The Treatment, Elvis Mitchel, to discuss “the serious business of being funny.” From her days at SNL to her early days watching movies with her dad (composer Richard Rudolph) in Westwood, Rudolph shared some of her favorite comedic moments from various films and how various comedians influenced and advised her throughout her career. Read on for ten tips and antidotes from Rudolph on the art of being funny, her memories growing up in comedy, what kind of comedians she is attracted to, and who gave her the best advice of her career.



Los Angeles is known for being a town where it is hard to meet people and have meaningful interactions. Angelinos live in their cars and do not frequently use public transportation like other big cities such as New York and Chicago, further lessening the chance you will randomly catch someone’s eye across a crowded subway car. There is certainly a predominant bar and night life scene in LA, but it is rare to walk away from those interactions with anything more than a random hook up. Forev gives audiences a glimpse into single life in Los Angeles for two 20-somethings looking to connect with someone, but not quite sure how. Pete (Matt Mider) is a mild mannered guy spending an evening in with a pizza and some TV, but his night is quickly interrupted when his neighbor Sophie (Noël Wells) crashes through his door in the throes of a very intense make out session. After overhearing her potential hook up bragging about her on the phone to his friends, she quickly sobers up and as it becomes clear Pete does not look put out because Sophie mistook his apartment for her own, he may have a thing for Sophie himself.



Anyone who’s flown on a Southwest flight knows the flight attendants can get a bit silly. But hopefully the reason is not because they are taking pulls from hidden bottles of alcohol behind the privacy curtains. Unfortunately the passengers of Peninsula Flight 2549 in I’m So Excited are not so lucky, but their flight attendants have a good reason to try and take the edge off. A mistake that happened before the flight took off (thanks to the antics of a few grounds crew members plus two funny cameo appearances) damaged the landing equipment and now the pilots are trying to find a free runway to try and make an emergency landing. While the crew drugged the passengers in coach to keep them from noticing they had been flying in circles for hours (and nowhere near their intended destination), those in business class end up finding out the truth, and the results are not what you would expect.



The Los Angeles Film Festival has finally rolled out their full lineup for the upcoming summer fest, and it’s packed with a number of Sundance picks, the return of Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Winding Refn, and everyone’s favorite film that hasn’t been released just yet, You’re Next. Basically, you should probably start making your schedule now, because this is easily one of LAFF’s best lineups yet. The festival will open with Pedro Almodovar‘s I’m So Excited (Almodovar is a Los Angeles favorite, as he’s also served as guest artistic director for LA’s other big festival, AFI FEST), close with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash‘s The Way, Way Back, and include special gala presentations in the middle of both Refn’s Only God Forgives and Ryan Coogler‘s Sundance winner Fruitvale Station (formerly known as Fruitvale). Didn’t think you could get a large portion of your awards season movie-viewing out of the way in June? Bummed you missed out on Sundance? You were so wrong. Check out the full lineup after the break.

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published: 12.23.2014
published: 12.22.2014
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