North Texas Daily

The highs and lows of DIFF

The highs and lows of DIFF

The highs and lows of DIFF
April 15
09:22 2014

Preston Barta // Film Critic

There is something thrilling about the Dallas International Film Festival. For a few days out of the year, everyone is a film junkie, hitting up red carpets to see their favorite stars or waiting for hours to catch the festival’s most buzzed about flick.

At the event, anything can happen: stand side-by-side at the urinal with Jesse Plemons, taking selfies with Clark Gregg or get your mind blown by Mark Duplass’ latest film. You might even get to talk about UNT and hipsters with Greg Kinnear.

This year’s crop of films had many exciting features, documentaries and shorts. After seeing numerous movies from local filmmakers and Big D visitors, the North Texas Daily put together a list of the best and the biggest letdowns of the festival.

The best of the fest

5. “We From Dallas”

Some of the most interesting films you can catch at festivals are films made by local talent. Teddy Cool’s “We From Dallas” was one of those films.

Tracking the rise of hip-hop culture in Deep Ellum, KNON radio and the climb of southern rap culture, “We From Dallas” is an imaginative documentary showing that Dallas deserves to hold its place in the records of hip-hop, street dancing and finding fresh beats. It shows compelling insights from local heroes and legends, such as Vanilla Ice, The D.O.C and Headkrack.

4. “Locke”

Who knew that a movie with Tom Hardy driving around, inducing intense phone conversations about concrete and a newborn child would make for one of the best films of the festival?

Like “Buried” with Ryan Reynolds, “Locke” keeps things dead simple: one man and one location. There are no flashy visuals or car chase sequences, for Hardy’s performance is a master class in acting and “Locke” is a triumph in minimalist filmmaking.

3. “Obvious Child”

Imagine if Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl’s story in “Knocked Up” had been more directed towards reality, than you might have an idea about “Obvious Child.” Featuring a breakthrough performance by Jenny Slate (“Parks and Recreation”), the film focuses on a 20-something stand-up comedian who gets pregnant, dumped and fired just in time for the best and worst Valentine’s Day of her life.

Although abortion may be a sensitive topic to many, what Slate and writer-director Gillian Robespierre manage to pull off with “Obvious Child” is a rare feat with an actual edge. It’s a wildly uproarious and enchanting female-centric romantic-comedy that showcases the immense talent on both sides of the camera.

2. “The One I Love”

On the surface, “The One I Love,” based on its title and story of re-sparking a failing marriage, seems like one of those kind of flicks that you seek to pass time and free your head from some of the more gritty movies that play at film festivals, like James Franco’s unpleasant “Child of God.” However, if you’re attending for your typical, light and cheesy romance comedy, you might be venturing down the wrong alley.

If you ever questioned what “The Cabin in the Woods” would be as a romantic-comedy, this Duplass-starring puzzler is very much that. It’s full of so many otherworldly twists and turns far superior to “Couples Retreat.”

1. “Dom Hemingway”

Besides David Gordon Green’s “Joe,” which we covered back in our South by Southwest edition, “Dom Hemingway” was the best film the festival had to offer. It’s delightfully dark and similar in spirit to Nicolas Winding Refn’s terrific “Bronson.”

After a 12-year prison sentence for keeping his mouth shut, the notorious safecracking Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) is back on the London streets, attempting to gather up what he’s owed. Along the way, Hemingway tries to make up for lost time by engaging in a flood of violence, sex, drugs and drunken debauchery.

Law gives his best performance to date as the title character. He’s repulsive and violent, but charming as hell, the chief reason you’ll root for his character through the entire film.

“Dom Hemingway” features a sharp and witty script written by Richard Shepard (“The Matador”) with visuals that vividly back his words. There is never a dull moment amidst the pumping nightlife of London, so full of color and vitality.

Opening at the Angelika Film Center in Dallas and Plano on Friday, make sure you visit your closest theater and take in what many festivalgoers took to be one of the most memorable experiences you’ll receive this month.

Films with grand potential that fell short

3. “Flutter”

Texas Grand Jury Prize winner, “Flutter,” had all the ingredients of being a great film about the Lone Star State: an alluring story of a mother’s love and a winning cast, including Plemons (“Breaking Bad”), Glenn Morshower (“24”) and Lindsay Pulsipher (“Justified”). But the film’s lackluster script and often-questionable plot sadly leaves us with very little to walk away with.

2. “Trust Me”

Gregg, who is mostly known for his role as Agent Phil Coulson in “The Avengers” and TV’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” has displayed his talents as a filmmaker in the past with adapting Chuck Palahniuk’s “Choke.” Sadly, however, his talents behind the camera don’t shine quite as bright with his newest, “Trust Me,” about a struggling agent for child actors.

1. “Hellion”

Expanding a short film into a feature is always a risky proposition, even more so when its short was so well received two years ago at the same festival.

Austin-based writer-director and University of Texas professor Kat Candler wasn’t deterred and decided to expand her acclaimed short “Hellion” into a full-length feature by adding celebrated actors Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”) and Juliette Lewis (“August: Osage County”) into the mix.

“Hellion” concerns a 13-year-old named Jacob (Josh Wiggins), whose destructive behavior forces Child Protective Services to place his little brother, Wes (Deke Garner), with his aunt (Lewis). Jacob and his emotionally absent father (Paul) must take responsibility for their actions in order to bring Wes home.

While the film won the Narrative Feature Grand Jury Prize, and it sets up a story for what promises to be a solid film, the fragile script and unrewarding subplots do not quite pack the punch to deem this film a true winner.

Best of the rest: “Balcony,” “The Bravest, the Boldest,” “Easy,” “Evolution of a Criminal,” “Heaven is For Real,” “The Lottery,” “Parked,” “Satellite Beach,” “The Starck Club” and “Words and Pictures.”

Be sure to look for our festival interviews with the directors and stars of “Heaven is For Real,” “Dom Hemingway,” “Flutter,” “Hellion,” “Joe,” “Satellite Beach” and “Words and Pictures” throughout the week on NTDaily.com.

Feature photo: Jude Law and Richard E. Grant get loud and crazy in “Dom Hemingway.” Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

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