Starz Denver Film Festival: Days 1 & 2

sdff37rotator_574337It’s been thirty-seven years since Ron Henderson and his friends started the Denver Film Festival, and the city and it’s citizens have benefitted greatly.

Now with a premier sponsor, Starz Entertainment, the Starz Denver Film Festival boasts 12 cinematic days in the heart of the city screening 252 movies (features, documentaries, shorts and music videos).

I provided an introduction to 37th Starz Denver Film Festival in this week’s Boulder Weekly, but now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty and watch the movies. What follows are not full reviews, but general thoughts from a bleary-eyed moviegoer hopscotching from theater to theater.

Almost all of the movies have second and third screenings, so please consult the festival schedule for upcoming screenings. As always, screenings are subject to change, but in a festival setting, that can only help as they tend to add rather than subtract. Full descriptions of each movie, plus times and tickets can all be handled here.

5 to 7

Bérénice Marlohe & Anton Yelchin “5 to 7” (2014)

Written and directed by Victor Levine, 5 to 7 stars Anton Yelchin as Brian, an aspiring author, who meets and falls in love with a French woman, Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe). Arielle is married with children and nine years his senior but has no qualms with open relationships (her husband has a mistress). The two begin an affair, one that can only take place between the hours of five and seven, referring back to a French tradition: between five and seven, a person’s whereabouts can be vague.

5 to 7 is a movie sorely searching for humor and levity and finds none. Marlohe has the looks, but lacks the talent. Brian has the quirks, but Yelchin lacks the charisma. The appearance of Glenn Close and Frank Langella as Brian’s parents is a welcome relief, but a frustrating bit of business when they quickly depart.

Director Levin was on hand for a Q&A with Denver film critic, Robert Denerstein and actress Jocelyn DeBoer was awarded the Rising Star Award in conjunction with the screening.

Written & Directed by: Victor Levine
Produced by: Bonnie Curtis, Sam Englebardt, William D. Johnson, Julie Lynn
Starring: Anton Yelchin, Bérénice Marlohe, Glenn Close, Frank Langella, Jocelyn DeBoer, Olivia Thirlby
IFC Films, Not yet rated, Running time 95 minutes, November 12, 2014
Dir. Anthony Baxter & Donald Trump, Jr. "A Most Dangerous Game" (2014)

Dir. Anthony Baxter & Donald Trump, Jr. “A Most Dangerous Game” (2014)

According to French critic and filmmaker, Jacques Rivette, “Every film is a documentary of its own making.” A Dangerous Game is that aphorism three-fold. A Dangerous Game documents the events of this movie, the events of director Anthony Baxter’s previous doc, You’ve Been Trumped (2011) and Baxter coming to terms with the beast he’s uncovered.

Picking up where Trumped left off, Baxter continues to play the thorn in Trump’s side as he needles him about ecological impact and expose Trump for the bully he is. Prior to the screening, Baxter revealed that the genesis for the doc came during the world promotion tour for Trumped, where people from every town came forth with similar issues and battles.

Baxter highlights a few, one in Croatia and one in Dubai, that parrot the same highway robbery that Trump was accused of in Scotland. They are infuriating moments, mainly because of the lies that spill from the lips who are in power. They claim these golf courses will bring jobs and economic stimulation, but it won’t. What it will bring, at least what the city council members who approve the development hope, are celebrities and rich people. It’s amazing what someone will sacrifice for a chance to spend some time near Paris Hilton.

Directed by: Anthony Baxter
Written & Produced by: Richard Phinney
Starring: Anthony Baxter, Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Alec Baldwin, Robert Kennedy, Jr.
Montrose Pictures, Running time 102 minutes, November 13, 14, 15, 17, 2014

Poverty, Inc

Poverty, Inc. is a feature-length documentary addressing the issue of foreign aid.

Most who give to starving children in Africa, shattered communities in Haiti and war-torn third-world countries think that they are doing the right thing. Wether they know it or not, they are seeing themselves as the “haves” and the recipients of aid as “have-nots”. Poverty, Inc. instead has the viewer consider that the recipients of aid are not “have-nots” but will turn into them if they keep receiving aid. Give a man a fish, and you feed him a day. Keep giving him fish, why bother fishing?

Collecting interviews from economists and activist, Poverty, Inc. makes the argument that aid really doesn’t help, it hinders. It keeps societies from forming, businesses from building and people from working. Their argument is made, and it is made well, but unfortunately, it is made repeatedly. It takes potshots at TOMS Shoes, Save the Children, NGOs and most voraciously, Bono. Not that these can’t stand a little ribbing, but director Michael Matheson Miller’s point is made one time too many.

Directed by: Michael Matheson Miller
Written by: Michael Matheson Miller, Jonathan Witt, Simon Scionka
Produced by: Michael Matheson Miller & James F. Fitzgerald, Jr.
Not yet rated, Running time 95 minutes, November 13 & 14, 2014
El Critico

Rafael Spregelburd in “El Crítico” (2013)

“A man goes to the movies. The critic must be honest enough to admit that he is that man.” Robert Warshow’s advice was good enough for Roger Ebert, but not for Victor Tellez (Rafael Spregelburd), the protagonists of Hernán Guerschuny’s Argentianian comedy, El Crítico.

Tellez is a jaded film critic who expects Godard every time the lights go down. Worse, he can’t stand people who read too deeply into historical events and come up with the wrong interpretation. Beyond that, he hates snobs about as much as he detests commoners, especially those that waste their time on frivolous romantic comedies.

Then he meets Sofía (Dolores Fonzi), and life takes on a whole new act. Guerschuny directs this frosting with a good sense of humor, poking at critics as well as the saps that love them. Although the third act contains a bizarre (and completely unnecessary) twist, it does have an ending that plays to both sides.

Written & Directed by: Hernán Guerschuny
Produced by: Carolina Alvarez, Hugo Castro Fau, Hernán Guerschuny, Carlos Nuñez
Starring: Rafael Spregelburd, Dolores Fonzi, Blanca Lewin, Ignacio Rogers
Music Box Films, Not yet rated, Running time 98 minutes, November 13, 14, 16, 2014
Keegan Edwards working "The Overnighters" (2014)

Keegan Edwards working “The Overnighters” (2014)

“The world is a broken place,” Pastor Jay Reinke states. He is correct, but he is speaking to a broken man as a broken man himself. What makes The Overnighters so remarkable is that until the end, we don’t know just how broken Reinke is.

The sudden economic boom from fracking has made journeymen far and wide travel to North Dakota in search of work and lucrative employment. Some find it, many don’t but hardly any of them have a place to stay. That was until Reinke allowed them to stay in the church and sleep in their cars in the church parking lot. An act of grace that the community and the local paper does not look fondly upon.

The Overnighters displays the push/pull relationship between the actions that make a good Christian, and the real-world emotions that a Christian faces. As one parishioner tells Reinke, she knows what she is doing is the right thing to do, but she doesn’t like it, and that is a real emotion that should be taken seriously. Reinke listens quietly and nods knowingly. He knows the burden he is placing on this community, which makes his decisions even more difficult to live with.

Writer/director Jesse Moss gives Reinke all the rope he needs to hang himself, but not out of vehemence, but adoration and devotion. The world is a broken place, and Reinke is one of the broken, but few have tried harder to mend it.

Written & Directed by: Jesse Moss
Produced by: Jesse Moss & Amanda McBaine
Starring: Jay Reinke
Drafthouse Films, Rated PG-13, Running time 102 minutes, November 13 & 22, 2014

TraitorsMalika (Chaimae Ben Acha) is a young rebel living in Morocco. Her punk band, Traitors, is on the verge of a break with an update of the Clash song, “I’m So Bored With Morocco” and a record producer is willing to steer Malika in the right direction.

The problem is, the producer is not willing to cover the cost of the recording session. Malika’s mother is facing eviction and Malika’s job as a mechanic isn’t enough to take care of it all. The answer, help a local drug dealer move hash from a farm to Tangier.

Traitors is a Moroccan movie written and directed by Massachusetts born actor, Sean Gullette, who is probably better known as the lead actor in Darren Aronofsky’s debut, Pi (1998). Traitors is Gullette’s first feature film (based on his short of the same name from 2011), and it is a slick and capable piece of narrative. Thankfully, Traitors never feels too polished, too glossy, too forced. The opportunity that Malika accepts, and the fate that Amal (Soufia Issami) face have a “ripped from the headlines” vibe but Gullette never politicized them. He allows them to be human beings, and Traitors benefits all the more.

Written & Directed by: Sean Gullette
Produced by: Karim Debbagh, Sean Gullette, Audrey Rosenberg
Starring: Chaimae Ben Acha, Soufia Issami, Mourade Zeguendi, Driss Roukhe
Film Movement, Running time 83 minutes, November 13, 14, 15, 2014
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About Michael J

I watch movies, write about movies, think about movies, and cook.
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