Desolation review

A mysterious man with reflective glasses stalks a trio of isolated campers in Desolation, the feature directorial debut of filmmaker Sam Patton. When Abby (Jaimi Paige) loses her husband to sickness, she takes her 13-year-old son Sam (Toby Nichols) and her best friend Jenn (Alyshia Ochse) on a multi-day hiking trip to spread her husband’s ashes at the top of a mountain. But during the trip, the group slowly realizes they’re being followed by a silent man with a beard, hood, and sunglasses. Our protagonists are worried, and it turns out their fears are justified: The Hiker (Claude Duhamel) is a killer, and they’re all alone in the woods with him.
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Never Here review

Miranda (Mireille Enos) is an installation artist interested in exploring the concept of identity. One of her exhibits is based on the time she found a man’s phone, went through it to learn the places he normally visited, and then trekked to those places to surreptitiously take photos of him, which she put on display in a gallery. But when she poses as the key witness in a police investigation of a random assault that occurred just outside her apartment window, Miranda is struck with inspiration for her latest idea, a twisted, voyeuristic documentation of the man she believes committed the crime.

It’s fitting that Miranda’s last name is “Fall,” since the character slowly descends into her own delusional interpretation of the world over the course of Camille Thoman’s unsettling directorial debut, Never Here. Read More »

The Bachelors review

The majority of movies at film festivals don’t release trailers beforehand, so we often choose which films to see based on the filmmakers involved, the cast, and a brief description. Approaching a movie fresh is a hugely different experience than seeing one that’s strategically unveiled three trailers and a barrage of TV spots, and because so much about them is unknown, I find myself watching festival films with a different level of anticipation. Not only am I hoping the film turns out to be good (as I do with every movie I see), but in the back of my mind, I’m secretly hoping to see something revelatory. Something that moves me in a way that a huge studio project might not be able to. Something with an awards-worthy performance, or perhaps something that heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in the world of independent film.

Most of the time, festival films don’t live up to those expectations. Sometimes, you just get a movie that’s fine, a middle-of-the-road piece of work that neither moves you nor insults your intelligence. Something competently made with respectable actors and a handful of pleasant moments, but you won’t ever give it a second thought. That may sound harsh or dismissive, but think about it: if you watch a lot of movies, doesn’t that accurately describe a large percentage of them? Such is the case with The Bachelors, Kurt Voelker’s exploration of grief, loneliness, and despair through the eyes of two men who have lost the most important woman in their lives. Read More »

Comet Emmy Rossum Justin Long

Editor’s note: This review originally ran in June, but the wonderful Comet opens in limited release this weekend, so we’ve republished it. It’s also on demand. Watch the trailer here.

Imagine you’re watching your relationship on TV. It is playing on five channels, with each channel airing a different stage of the relationship. When things get too uncomfortable, awkward or emotional, you just flip the channel. On that next channel, you’d continue to watch your relationship unfold, maybe from a point a few years later. The cumulative result of the experience would probably put into perspective the whole of what you and another person can be together. Loving in one moment, hateful in another, caring, selfish and more.

That metaphor is an elaborate attempt to describe Comet, the directorial debut of Sam Esmail, which had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival this weekend. Comet stars Emmy Rossum and Justin Long as the central couple. While there is absolutely no TV channel surfing involved, the film’s complex and fascinating structure feels like that, from the audience perspective. It’s a dense, funny, insanely well-written and well-acted film. Unlike most romantic films, it keeps you guessing. Simultaneously, it raises questions about the nature of love, life, and truth, all disguised in an semi-conventional love story told in the most unconventional of ways. It’s a special movie. Read More »

Spike Jonze's Her

Saturday night at the Los Angeles Film Festival, Spike Jonze unveiled Her. It was the first time the director of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Where the Wild Thing Are showed any footage from his fourth film in public and it was as quirky and interesting as you’ve come to expect from Jonze. On top of that, it was also incredibly insightful and sweet. Set in Los Angeles of the “slight-future,” Joaquin Phoenix plays a man who has just purchased OS1, the world’s first artificially intelligent computer operating system and, over the course of the film, he’ll fall in love with it.

Jonze both wrote and directed Her, making it his first solo feature screenplay. Warner Bros. has scheduled the film for a November release but Jonze revealed he’s been editing for about a year and has plenty more work to do. “This is a movie we’re still finishing,” he said. “There are some scenes we still want to do, a couple scenes we’re writing that we want to shoot.” That’s normal for Jonze, though, who said some of his films have taken over two years of post production.

In the two scenes screened from Her (note: Neither Jonze nor the moderator, David O. Russell, ever explicity called the film “Her” so maybe another title change is coming) we see the first time Phoenix’s character, Theodore, installs OS1 and meets Samantha, the custom personality OS1 builds for him voiced by Scarlett Johansson. Then he screened a scene from later in the film where Theodore takes Samantha to the beach.

Read more about the scenes below. Read More »

Man of Steel Poster Header

The Way Way Back, Fruitvale Station, Short Term 12, The Spectacular Now, Only God Forgives, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and In A World. The 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival already features a laundry list of the year’s best festival films and highly anticipated fall releases. Now the fest is adding a bit of blockbuster appeal.

The festival, which takes places June 13-23 in downtown Los Angeles, has just added special advanced screenings of Man of Steel and Monsters University. And if that’s not enough, Spike Jonze will do a special event talking about his career and presenting footage from his upcoming movie, Her. Read More »