Monthly Archives: April 2012

KC Film Fest: A review of Country Story

[Editor’s Note: over the next few days, I’m reviewing movies shown at the KC Film Festival. The film fest ran from April 11-15. To learn more, visit kcfilmfest.org.] 

Country Story

Drawn in by the description of the movie in the festival’s program, as well as the screening time earlier in the day, I ended up at the screening of Country Story on day three at the Kansas City Film Fest.

This story follows an unemployed young man named Jason around his small town in rural Oregon. He hangs out with his friends, plays a little basketball, and refuses to look for a job. The star of this movie, however, almost seemed to be the landscapes. What stood out to me most about the film was that it is absolutely gorgeous to watch. The cinematography and the editing seemed so seamless. The acting and conversations between characters also seemed very natural. In fact, there were times that I wondered if I wasn’t watching a documentary. I really felt like I was watching the filmmakers capture the reality of some of my friends’ lives in Lawrence, Kansas. It was incredible.

In the movie’s description, this sentence stood out to me: “When [Jason’s] overwhelming apathy eventually causes him to make a grave mistake, he sets off with his pals into the deep backwoods.” Well, not exactly. The description led me to think I was possibly going to watch a drama, or even a murder mystery– and that’s not at all what you get. In doing more research about the film, I discovered its Kickstarter in which Country Story is described as a narrative film. YES. Exactly. I wasn’t disappointed in the film by any means, but I think I might have enjoyed it a little more if I understood what I was getting into.

Overall, Country Story captures breathtaking scenery, and a very natural storyline and characterizations of people and their lives in a small town. The film will not be for everyone, but those who are expecting and enjoy narrative films and beautiful cinematography will be very impressed.

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KC Film Fest: A review of QWERTY

[Editor’s Note: over the next few days, I’m reviewing movies shown at the KC Film Festival. The film fest runs from April 11-15. To learn more, visit kcfilmfest.org.]

“$55 for underwear? No ass is worth that much.”

QWERTY

QWERTY

A love story involving Scrabble? Count me in! Really, I didn’t need be sold on seeing QWERTY because I absolutely love Scrabble, but seeing the trailer during the KC Film Fest sneak peek last week completely confirmed my feelings about needing to be at the movie’s world premiere yesterday.

Bill Sebastian’s film is centered around a self-proclaimed “word nerd” named Zoe, who has the absolute best job ever– translating vanity plate requests for the state of Illinois to make sure they aren’t naughty words. The movie starts out with the vanity plate request “Tohzah,” which turns out to be the Klingon version of the F-word. Brilliant. Zoe is very odd and quirky, picking up dirty socks off of the sidewalk to turn into sock puppets. I tend to get irritated by Hollywood’s typical quirky female (don’t ask me about Juno or Ms. Deschanel… annoying), but I found her character very charming and endearing. She meets “Mucky” at a store where he is a security officer, and he proceeds to flip out over a $55 pair of underwear. And the love story begins. The chemistry between the two lead actors was really great– in fact, I was wondering if they were possibly together in real life, but it turns out that Bill Sebastian and Dana Pupkin (who plays Zoe) are married and Dana gave birth to their first child very recently (she was also at the movie premiere!).

QWERTY

QWERTY director Bill Sebastian, lead actress Dana Pupkin, and their brand new baby

I thought the writing was the best part of this movie. For a romantic comedy, it had enough snark and sass to keep the film from being eye-rollingly cheesy. There are several conversations between Mucky and Zoe as they make fun of Zoe’s coworker Bob, and later some patrons at a restaurant, that I found to be extremely funny.

The entire movie was shot on a Canon 7D (Sebastian’s dad had the camera they used with him at the premiere), and I thought the movie looked great visually. There were a few times when the Chicago skyline was superimposed into some scenes where, um, the skyline was not quite accurate, and as a former  Chicago resident that bugged me a bit (but I’m also insanely picky and nutty). I also really enjoyed how Sebastian shot the scenes at the National Scrabble Championships. The interaction between Scrabble players and the quips from the commentators were very well done, and almost reminded me of some of the scenes in Dodgeball (which I hope everyone takes as a compliment, because I love that movie).

If you like romantic comedies and Scrabble, or if you miss Chicago (like me), I highly recommend seeing QWERTY. And I have some good news for those of you in Kansas City who missed the world premiere on Thursday– QWERTY will be showing at the KC Film Fest again on Saturday, April 14th at 8:00 pm at AMC Ward Parkway.

KC Film Fest– A review of Andrew Bird: Fever Year

[Editor’s Note: over the next few days, I’m reviewing movies shown at the KC Film Festival. The film fest runs from April 11-15. To learn more, visit kcfilmfest.org.]

I used to be a DJ at a college radio station.

Yes, it is something I cling to– I swear that I was cool once!– but it’s true. It’s also relevant, because Andrew Bird was HUGE at my radio station. In 2005, every DJ and their mother played “Fake Palindromes.” In 2007, every DJ and their mother played a song from Armchair Apocrypha. Well, I didn’t because I played a show (Breakfast for Beatlovers) where it would’ve been quite inappropriate to play Andrew Bird, but I did play my fair share of Dosh. Either way, I listened to quite a bit of his music and was thrilled to find out that this documentary would be screening in Kansas City.

Andrew Bird – Fever Year

Xan Aranda’s documentary follows Bird as he suffers (and yet, doesn’t) through a 165-stop tour with, literally, a fever the entire time. There are several live performances at Milwaukee’s Pabst Theatre highlighted throughout the film, as well as the tour’s finale at Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago. Bird is pretty well known for being private about his personal life, but it was lovely to see him create songs and improvise with ease. His disdain for the recording studio (“The microphone is the worst kind of audience”) and his desire to play live shows with welcomed flaws and without obsessive amounts of rehearsal was very refreshing. I must also say, Andrew Bird is really funny (you can pick that out by his lyrics) and I always have a weakness for men who happen to be teetering on the edge of a unibrow. The interviews are short but insightful, and the film is worth seeing based on the live performances alone. I’d definitely recommend the movie to anyone who loves music, and especially anyone who is a fan of Mr. Bird.

If you’re in KC and kicking yourself for missing Andrew Bird: Fever Year, you’re in luck!– catch the second screening at 8:15 on Saturday, April 14 at AMC Ward Parkway.

Pardon the Interruption: A preview of KC Film Fest

You wouldn’t necessarily know it based on the fact that I’ve missed out on some of the most important films ever made, but I absolutely love movies. So I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to cover the KC Film Fest on Late to the Movies. This will be my first time attending KC Film Fest– in fact, I’ve NEVER attended a film festival– and I’m excited to have the chance to review new films and support the independent filmmaking community.

Last night, the fest hosted a media preview at AMC Ward Parkway 14. We got a sneak peek of 11 films and several shorts that will be showing at the festival. I really enjoyed watching the previews and I was so impressed with the content that I ended up changing my schedule around to fit in some of the films we saw last night. For now, I’m planning to see the following films and shorts:

The KC Film Fest opens April 11th and runs through April 15th. Ticket and pass information is available on their website– single tickets for movies are available as well! Are you planning to attend the KC Film Fest? Let me know what movies you’re planning to see!

[PS– My Twitter buddies Tyler and John will also be blogging throughout the festival. Definitely check out what they have to say about the event!]