Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Philadelphia Cinefest 2011 - Part 1

For the last five days in between keeping up with my advance screenings, including 'Rio' and 'Scre4m' which I will post about later in the week, and catching up on the original 'Scream' trilogy, and my day job of course, I've been attending as many films at the Philadelphia film festival, known as Cinefest, as possible.  Unfortunately I haven't seen nearly as many as I have in the past, partially due to the aforementioned reasons, and partially due to the fact that the festival is shorter than ever before, showing significantly less films at fewer venues.  (Although last year's festival didn't happen at all so I probably shouldn't complain.)  Undoubtedly due to the recession, this year's April festival is only showing around 55 films over only 8 days at basically one venue, The Ritz East, with only two screens.  (A few sporatic screenings are being shown at The Trocadero, The Painted Bride, and The Piazza at Schmidt's.)  And most films are only screening once or twice.  By comparison, the festival used to run 11 or 12 days, and show up to 150 feature films, two to three times each, on up to seven screens simultaneously.  So it's quite a bit smaller this year than in its hey-day and as a result I've only seen 6 so far (not including 'Exporting Raymond', which I saw a few months ago at the Santa Barbara Film Festival).  And Cinefest ends this Thursday.  Sad, I know, but here is a summary of what I've seen for those of you who care about the smaller festival fare:

The Troll Hunter
Per the title, this is a Nordic midnight-type monster movie about Trolls and the men who hunt them.  I'm getting a little tired of the 'found footage'-'Blair Witch'y type horror/monster films, but nevertheless many of them are very entertaining, like 'Cloverfield' and 'The Last Exorcism'.  And this one is no exception.  It's good fun.  And the troll theme was a nice fresh touch.  It's playing at the TriBeCa Film Festival in a few weeks for those of you East Coasters who want to check it out.
Grade: B

Lapland Odyssey
This is a Finnish comedy about a sorry gent whose girlfriend gives him an ultimatum that he best get her a Digibox (a.k.a a cable box) or she'll leave him.  And since he's poor, a series of misadventures follow on his quest to get one and keep his lady.  It's pretty fun and the crowd definitely had a good time.
Grade: B

Ceremony
Michael Angarano, who's only 24 and 5'7" according to IMDB, plays a spunky fellow who stumbles upon an ex-love played by Uma Thurman, who's almost 41 and 6'0" according to IMDB, and he tries to convince her to get back together with him, despite the fact she's getting married to a handsome, successful, rich movie star.  The casting should give you an idea of how offbeat the film is.  It felt very Wes Anderson to me, and Angarano could easily have been replaced by Jason Schwartzman.  The film is mainly a drama, but with some quirk to it, and while it's not a total success, I did like that it's different.  It opens at the Ritz theaters in Philly on 4/22, but I wouldn't go out of your way to see it.
Grade: B-

Womb
Billed as 'super weird and super creepy' by Cinefest, this is a slow-burn science fiction film involving true love and cloning.  Alas, in retrospect, I'm not quite as crazy about the film as I am about the idea.  It was just too slow for my taste and you can pretty easily see where it's going.
Grade: C

Endhiran (a.k.a. Robot)
This is a relatively big budget science fiction Bollywood film about a group of inventors who make a robot as the ultimate military weapon.  According to the Cinefest write-up it's 'the most expensive production in Indian cinema history' and 'enjoyed the largest international premiere of any Indian film to date'.  So that's why I went to see it.  And the score is by Academy Award winner A.R. Rahman, who did the score to '127 Hours' which I absolutely love.  The music was decent, and in typical Bollywood fashion there are many long musical dance numbers.  And the movie was sort of fun, with a few very impressive action sequences.  But at almost 3 hours long I felt more than a little underwhelmed.
Grade: C-

Wuss
A loser returns to his high school as a substitute teacher in this quirky indie drama, and along the way he gets involved with an ex-classmate at a reunion, a violent student, and a young femme fatale in his class.  It simply doesn't go anywhere interesting.  And the 25 minutes of technical problems preceding the film didn't help.
Grade: D

Be sure to check back for more Cinefest reviews and my final thoughts on this year's festival.

2 comments:

  1. Womb sounds like Splice (the Citizen Kane of Clone-Rom-Coms)

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  2. You skipped the film festival to watch Rio, WOW. This is not the Flieder on Film that I know. You did realize that it was a kids movie and not a sequel to the 80's film Blame it on Rio starring M.Caine. Nor was it a documentary about Carnival which is held every year in Rio. Either of those I may have seen instead of a film festival movie but not an animated kids movie, haha. Troll, Lapland, Endhiran all B+, and Ceremony gets a C-

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