The Arizona Filmmakers Showcase Reviews: September 16, 2018

The Virus – Ryan O’Connell
The Virus tells the story of a couple in the midst of an electronically transmitted epidemic. A new virus is rampaging across the West Valley and their only salvation may be to stop watching pornography.
A strong drive to deliver a theme and technical achievements barely carry this movie away from a reversion to a preachy sex-ed video that is thinly veiled by an overused trope in cinema.
This film has a strong and clean plot at its core. Its ability to deliver its theme throughout the movie is commendable. The acting was lukewarm and often quite stilted. The two main actors felt more like strangers than an actual couple. I really enjoyed the attention to detail in the radio reporting and television shows. Those details showed a lot of precision and love for the creation of the film. The shots are also clear and smooth. Nevertheless, these details were overshadowed by the overused genre that the film subscribes itself to. Virus films have been done, redone, reiterated and rehashed countless times in mainstream and independent cinema. It did not feel as if the film was created to entertain with a lesson as a byproduct. Instead it felt like an educational video that would be shown in a humid eighth grade health classroom. The combination of the overused trope and awkward message made the film, at least for myself, unenjoyable and hard to watch. Great attention to detail and technical virtues are overlooked in another virus film that preaches to its audience. 2/10

 

Mr. Memento – Chris Heck
Mr. Memento tells the ironic tale of a decrepit man, “M” (Richard Lippert), who enjoys curating post-mortem photographs in order to decorate his home. Through its shots, tone building and practical effects Mr. Memento weaves an incredibly strong and creepy story.
The cinematography and quality of shots in this film are incredible and of professional quality. The lens through which the film is shot through greatly accentuates the tone and melancholy feeling of the film. Since there is no dialogue, the audience is allowed to focus on some of the impressive camera angles, movements and shots. The lens, music and overall pace of the film allow for the tone of the film to mature. Because of this, the movie has a very strong narrative and voice. The practical effect of Ophelia’s (Gabrielle Stone) hand was quite interesting and believable. One drawback of Mr. Memento is that it left me wanting more. Like the main character, I believe that the movie could have been fleshed out more. That being said, I enjoyed the strong and simple story with a great climax and ending. In fact, I thought the ending was enjoyable and it truly brought the movie full-circle. While Mr. Memento shows great execution of a completely original and creative film, it leaves you with a sense of emptiness. 8/10

 

Late Fees

This alternate timeline 90’s film tells the story of Erin Graves and Matt Rosenberg, two workers for the Shallow Graves video store. These two misfits fumble their way through a botched late fees retrieval and it leads to a darkly funny Pulp Fiction-esque film.

The concept of this film is hilariously creative and original at the same time. Overall, the film succeeded in telling the story it wanted to tell, despite a few technical hiccups along the way.

This film houses a couple of creative perspective shots as well as a few well-executed tracking shots. Sometimes the camera was out of focus and it drew me out of the world the movie was trying to create. The costumes are intriguing and they fit the characters and the movie wonderfully well. The lighting, especially around the fireplace, reflects off of the setting and actors nicely. While the acting starts off a little rough, it smooths out as the movie progresses. The chemistry between the two main actors was phenomenal. They played off each other nicely and their quips and jokes were well-received due to that fact. Overall, I believe the back-and-forth between the actors was one of the film’s greatest strengths. With that being said, the film left me wanting more. The movie ended on a cliffhanger as if it was only an episode in a continuing series. I believe that the film could have benefited greatly by having a better ending that wrapped the story up. Nevertheless, if there is ever a sequel to this film, I will surely pay to see it. Late Fees trips up on a lot of simple problems but it comes back with bigger virtues. The acting, chemistry and plot all come together to make a commendable film that doesn’t finish strong. Overall, I believe that the level of enjoyment that Late Fees collects overshadows any small mistakes it made along the way. 8.8/10

 

Home – Ryan Henry Johnston

On its surface, Home tells the story of a failed mission and an astronaut’s attempt to make it back to safety. But as viewers of the film can testify, Home shows us an incredibly human story in an alien setting.

After failing to retrieve data samples and breaking her leg Brianna Weller (Charlotte Lilt), lays stranded on the neighboring planet of Mars. Meanwhile, a NASA agent (Jason Wiechert) tries to retrieve her estranged father, Frank Weller (Joe Ricci). Frank must verbally supply the moral and physical support to his daughter in order for her to reach an outpost before she dies. Intriguing world building, unyielding dialogue and amazing performances make this movie a marvelous and emotionally sound science-fiction flick.

The settings, in front of which the movie unfolds, provide a layer of context and depth that greatly complements the movie. The backdrops actively project the plot and theme of the movie forward. The Mars setting does not only look great, but it also creates a layer of believability that can sometimes be lost in films with out-of-this-world settings. While this movie tells the story of an interplanetary issue, its core theme fleshes out an interpersonal relationship. That’s what I think really made this movie great. It creates an extraordinarily human sphere of emotion within a larger science-fiction setting.

The shots in this film were well-executed and clever in the way that they told a story. First, the opening shot on the injured astronaut, Brianna Weller, was nothing short of breathtaking. The sharp contrast between the white of the suit and the sea of orange dirt was amazing. While the opening aerial shot seemed professional, I believe that the close-up face shots carried more significance and weight. The quick shots that shifted from Frank to Brianna were creative and smart. They created the facade that the father and daughter were actually having a conversation face to face. With Frank speaking on the far left of the screen, and Brianna speaking from the far right. Furthermore, the contrast between Frank’s dark and dusty home, and Brianna’s bright red prison encased a lot of well thought out thematic elements. These differentiating shots displayed their literal and emotional distance from each other. Another commendable aspect of this film is the acting. Both Lilt and Ricci delivered knockout performances in this film. The actors built off each other’s emotion while cultivating a sense of chemistry in a story that requires them to be completely separated.

Finally, I believe that the dialogue in this film should be recognized for doing what dialogue should do in all films, expand and drive the story forward. If every other aspect of this film was whittled down to nothing, the dialogue would still make for a good story. The dialogue in this film serves as the centerpiece around which the rest of the movie plays out. Therefore, I tip my hat to the writers, actors and director of Home. 9.8/10

 

 

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