Los Angeles Film Festival – Days 1-4

We look at the films from the first four days of the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Some of these movies are playing again later in the week, so check ‘em out if you’re in L.A. or keep them in mind for later.


Drive – Reviews seem to be unanimously glowing, and they’re right. It is your standard hired killer movie with that one bad job and doing it for a girl. But it’s the best American hired killer movie. The buildup to violence is like a Leone western. The film focuses on gestures and movements and that creates more excitement than all the set piece spectacles. When the violence erupts it is intense because the characters carry it through as thoroughly as real killers would. It’s so effective, you do kind of wish there were a twist on the standard plot, but the actors are totally believable with the familiar motivations.


Haunters – This Korean thriller has a clever hook and some interesting sequences, but never comes together as a whole. A killer has the power to control anybody with his eyes. He can make them freeze while he robs them, or kill themselves. One man is immune to this power, so he tries to stop the killer. It’s still hard when the haunter sends mind controlled bodies after the hero, or has them throw babies in the subway, so you’ve got to save them. I’m making this sound really cool, but except for the subway scene, the film just lingers. A Sam Raimi type could give it the build and drive it’s missing. Remake?


Future Filmmaker Showcase: High School Program No. 2 – I wanted to support the kids and see what they came up with. The collection in this program are pretty impressive. The teens who made documentaries show that they have a good eye for a story, in a school for blind kids and a young b-boy. Animators show they’re going to keep stop motion alive. Most of the narrative shorts show the signs of inexperienced actors and filmmakers, but they’re on the right track. They have a sense of a beginning, middle and end, and some even have a twist that really surprises you.


L!Fe Happens – This chick flick actually has the potential to work for guys. It helps that there are three pretty girls in it and raunchy humor. It’s the basic single mom raising a baby with the help of her BFFs movie, but it’s a lot better than the Kate Hudson or Kathryn Heigl version. Kate Bosworth seems like the coolest friends in the world, Rachel Bilson is delightfully goofy and Krysten Ritter is adorable. You would’ve hoped that an indie wouldn’t use quite so many contrived plot devices, but you can kind of forgive that when the jokes are working.


Unraveled – This documentary focuses on another economic swindler, less well known than Bernie Madoff. The filmmaker spent 60 days with Marc Dreier while he awaited sentencing, so it is an intimate look at what made him commit fraud, and his plea for a lighter sentence. His guilt is more blatant to me than Madoff, because Dreier just sold promissory notes that flat out didn’t exist, and created fake documents representing other firms. That’s just making stuff up. Madoff sold people on a scheme that possibly could have been analyzed to reveal its corrupt nature. I believe that Dreier was remorseful, although like any human he still makes bad decisions in his apologetic pleas. That makes the film interesting.