Monday, July 23, 2012

LAS VEGAS FILM FESTIVAL: THE MOVIES I SAW, PART 1



I meant to blog last night, but I was too tired to unfortunately. The festival is now over, and I've got a week of sleeping planned now, but boy, it was exciting, and not just the part where Lisa, aka Mrs. Henry Hill, grabbed me out-of-nowhere, and told me to interviews her friends, the old-time Las Vegas gangsters. (Although that was a pretty cool part of it.) Now, these next couple blogs will include a few cool anecdotes, but we're gonna talk about the movies I saw mainly, and while I didn't get to see anything on Day 1, from days 2-4, the movies overall were pretty good, and a couple were special in fact. Day 2, I sat at the same theatre where Elvis once played, and watched 6 feature-lengths films, which I hope is a record for me, but I'm not gonna lie, it wouldn't surprise at all if it wasn't. Unfortunately, I didn't attend of the panels, including the Gangster one with Frank Cullato, I wanted too, but that day, Day 3, I had the pleasure of taking my Cousin Billy with me to the festival with my second VIP pass, and since it was his first festival, and since I never get to be around him, I made it his call when there was multiple things going on, and he chose the short films. I don't blame him, I picked films over all the panels myself this year, but I hope he enjoyed the experience, and hopefully it on't be the only film festival we go to.

I won't be giving full movie reviews like I normally do this time; instead, they'll be short and sweet descriptions, along with some thoughts, as well as a star rating.

FOOLS ON THE HILL played early, early morning, and was another one of those political documentaries about how problematic our government is. This one focused on the phenomenon where officials are constantly voting and overvoting on bills, but also voting on bills that they haven't yet read. One man, Jerrod LeBaron, decides to work on making it a law that all bills must be read by officials before they vote on them, and that all bills should be on the internet, in their completed form, for at least 4 days before they get voted on, that way the constituents and the public, can read the bills, and comment on them. I like the second part personally, although I think with some of these thousand-page bills, and the fact that their could be dozens of them a day sometimes being voted on, that politicians should at least have their staff read them and go through them like a pine-tooth comb, so that they don't accidentally vote on some obscure rider that bankrupts the state of California, but I like the idea in general. The movie was somewhat thin with it's subject being Jerrod, but some of the examples and talking heads were goods. Jed Rigney's film was both informative and entertaining. 3 STARS

SATELLITE OF LOVE had the shortest decription of any feature-length film in the festival's official pamphlet, and I quote: "The story of a composer on a quest to understand the unrequited love he shares with his best friend's wife". Thank God they wrote that, 'cause I saw the movie, and had no idea what-the-hell it was about. The composer, along with his girlfriend of the week, take his two friends out on a trip to a vineyard for, like a week. The friend's wife, was the composer ex-girlfriend, and for way-too-long, they flirt and flirt until finally something happens between them, and then nothing. "Satellite of Love," was pointless, plotless and boring. It was only 80 minutes, but it was terrible. How bad was it? The director, Will James Moore was apparently at the festival, and they planned to have a Q&A after, but when the festival director went onstage to introduce him, he had left the theatre already. Even the filmmaker walked out of this film, and that was the one good thing he did regarding this film. 1 STAR

BIG IN BOLLYWOOD was the most enjoyable and fun documentary I saw at the entire festival. The film follows American actor Omi Vaidya, as he and a few of his friends armed with fake press passes and cameras, follow him to India, for the premiere of his Bollywood film "3 Idiots". I haven't the seen "3 Idiots", but I will, I just placed it on my Netflix, and overnight it became the biggest Bollywood film in the last couple decades, and Omi becomes superfamous very quickly, in India. His famous speech in the film, which involves him speaking a badly mistranslated Hindi is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Omi Vaidya still lives in L.A., and he still struggles with Hindi, but now he's a Bollywood star, and is riding that wave as long as he can. It's a fun little behind the scenes story that accidently captures a literal overnight success. Very funny, very enjoyable. 4 1/2 STARS

MONIKA was one of the premiere screenings at the festival, as the movie took place primarily in Las Vegas, and featured look Vegas actress Cerina Vincent as the title role. It's a bit of mindbending action movie where L.A. actor Reagan (Jason Wiles) spends a wild first night in Vegas with Monika, only to find out that he not only might have imagined that night, but by the time he got to Vegas, Monika had already been killed for a day by some gangsters, or was she? There was some big stars in the film, including good albeit brief supporting performances by C. Thomas Howell and Elisa Donovan. The stars showed up for a Q & A afterwards, including writer/director Stephen Monroe, and star Cerina Vincent and they were all very entertaining and informative. Monroe's most famous for directing the recent remake of "I Spit On Your Grave," and he's very good here, and gave me some insight into the purpose behind the more mind-bending plotpoints in the film, that didn't make as much sense to me originally, until he explained his purpose as to try and keep the audience offguard, and unsure of what's happening in the film, and in hindsight, it did that quite well, to my surprise. It even changed the dynamic of many of action scenes, and how'd they typical be played, if they didn't add that aspect of it. 3 STARS

THE EYES OF THAILAND was the most heartfelt documentary I say during the festival. It told the story first, of the collapse of the Asian elephant in Thailand, a country known for elephants, now has around 5,000 remaining. Many were sent away to zoos, a lot of them were taken off of the country's one profitable logging industry. One woman builds the Friends of the Asian Elephant Hospital (F.A.E.) in order to save the from abuses, until they begin getting an even more shocking cause of the diminishing elephant population. As elephants cross the border from Thailand to Burma, which is run by a crazed dictator in the thrusts of Civil War, the elephants step on landmine, and have their legs blown to disrepair. The footage of injured elephants, struggling to walk on three legs is some of the toughest footage I've ever watched. It doesn't deter the hospital worker, who begin focusing on these terrible injuries, prepare them for surgery and healing, if possible, and after years, they begin developing the first ever elephant prosthetic legs. First they try it on a baby elephant who arrived with her mother in tow on the truck, after days of travel, and then soon, they try it on their first landmine victim, who's injury was far more severe. Writer/director Windy Borman really gets at your heartstrings with this film, but how could you not after seeing these poor beautiful creatures in some useless and unnecessary pain. 5 STARS

THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH was the official Opening Night Premiere film for the festival, and star Lea Thompson was in attendance accepting the Female Indie Icon Award for the festival, and she and director Jim Hemphill were gratious enough to take a photo with me, and as soon as I figure out how to get the photo from my camera to my computer, and then onto my Facebook, I'll post it on my Facebook. As for the film, it was one of the very best in the festival. It's basically two people, who were once married, Thompson, and the wonderful John Shea, as they spend an evening together going out to dinner and talking. He's a jazz musician with a regular piano gig at a club, she remarried rich enough to afford to become a successful author, and they go through all the conflicting emotions of marriage, their divorce, their current feelings for each other, they're current positions in life, etc. The title, "The Trouble with the Truth," I believe is reference to saying the things people really want to say, and they dance around the truths for awhile in this film. It's slightly inspired by "My Dinner with Andre," but I think it felt like an extended segment from Bergman's "Scenes from a Marriage," one of the later scenes from that film, although it probably plays out, about how something really would. I'm prone to like films like these, but, the fact is, if there's a film that I would want to see again from the festival right now, it'd be this one. 5 STARS

Well, that's all for now. I'll blog later about the rest of the films I saw at the festival, including many of the short films I saw, and there was a lot of them, as I still have to sort through most of my pamphlets, my literature, my business cards. Boy do I need to get business cards of my own, it's so much better and easier than constantly writing out your blog and name on yellow legal pad, as I found out very quickly and then, often.
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