WHAT WE DO IS SECRET (2007, directed by Rodger Grossman, 92 minutes, U.S.)
BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC What is no secret is that the old-fashioned Hollywood bio-pic is over-due for an overhaul; why hasn’t first-time director Roder Grossman received the news? Indistinguishable from about fifty percent of VH1’s Behind The Music scripts, this bio of quintessential L.A. punk Darby Crash and his briefly viable band The Germs hits most of the same notes as Judd Apatow’s Dewey Cox parody from last winter. The Germs‘ music still kicks ass and E.R.s Shane West (collecting the Festival’s Rising Star Award at Saturday’s screening) does his darndest to channel Crash’s stage presence yet one can’t escape the feeling that the film’s subject himself would have found his biopic as one more cynical example of showbiz falseness. As a movie, What We Do Is Secret is not very punk.
Saturday April 12th, 7:00pm, Prince Music Theater
Sunday, April 13th 2:30pm, Ritz East
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NOTHING TO LOSE (2008, directed by Pieter Kuijpers, 88 minutes, Netherlands)
Johan (Theo Maassen) killed his father a few years back and since he’s never come clean on this act he is going to be transferred from the mental hospital to prison. In the process, he makes a grisly escape looking for his mother to clear his name, dragging along the sweet thirteen year old Tessa (Lisa Smit) as a hostage. Johan’s huge eyes and his gentle and confused demeanor make us question Johan’s guilt as well and as his journey spirals beyond control we find ourselves taking his side. Up to a point. Director Kuijpiers places us inside Johan’s head, leaving long sections of the film soundless except for the droning score that drowns out the world around him. Even though the film’s plot doesn’t offer many surprises Kuijpers drum-tight direction and Maassen frustrated intensity allows this psychological character study to succeed at most everything it attempts. –D.B.
Saturday April 12th, 7:30pm, Ritz East
Sunday, April 13th, @:30pm, Ritz Five
CHOOSE CONNOR (2007, directed by Luke Eberl, 114 minutes, U.S.)
Written, edited and directed by twenty-one year old actor Luke Eberl, Choose Connor is an intriguing yet uneven drama about the seduction of a teenage boy into the world of modern politics. Congressman Connor (Stephen Weber from TV’s Wings in a perfectly slimy performance) gives his campaign a shot in the arm when he picks fifteen year old policy wonk Owen (Alex D. Linz, who a decade ago replaced Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone 3) as his youth advisor. It’s no surprise that Eberl puts a precocious young man at the center of this film, Choose Connor consistently surprises us with its natural dialogue and well-directed scenes between Owen and Congressman Connor. Best are the scenes where the Congressman slowly becomes a malevolent mentor to his nerdy young pupil, when Weber drops the rhetoric and dispenses his jaded outlook we feel the danger of the Congressman’s seductive charm. Alas, Eberl’s talent with dialogue and actors can’t cover his inexperience with the subject matter; for starters it seems unlikely that a savvy Congressman like Connor would make his campaign so vulnerable to a fifteen year old boy who is openly struggling over the issue of scruples. Eberl’s talents are impossible to miss though, despite its flaws Choose Connor has all the earmarks of an emerging talent. — D.B.
Saturday April 12th, 9:30pm, Prince Music Theater
Sunday, April 13th, 2:30pm, Ritz East
HOLLER BACK – (NOT) VOTING IN AN AMERICA TOWN (2008, Lulu Fries’Dat, 96 minutes, U.S.)
The second Festival film about our bedraggled election system, this time looking at citizens of Allentown PA that are refusing to vote in the 2004 Presidential election. While people love to sneer at those who don’t care to take part on election day, director Fries’Dat doesn’t minimize the understandable feelings of disenfranchisement the working poor feel when generation after generation of their issues have gone ignored. She addresses their reasons for not voting one-by-one, I just wish the director came off less like a condescending Sunday school teacher in her role as the voice of common sense. –D.B.
Saturday, April 12th, 7:00pm, Black Box at the Prince