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The Gen Art Film Festival 2007

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Chalk, directed by Mike Akkel.

A “documentary” about the experiences of four faculty members in a high school. The acting, especially by Chris Mass as a teacher who strives to win the Teacher of the Year award, is very convincing as are some of the scenarios. Many scenes show all of the nerve-racking tension that goes on behind-the-scenes in school, so this will definitely be a “documentary” that many teachers could relate to. However, it loses its momentum gradually and doesn’t live up to its potential to be as funny as a Christopher Guest “documentary”. Ultimately, it feels rather underwhelming. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Low. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Low. Released by Virgil Films and Warrior Poets. Opens June 8th, 2007 at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

*Opening Night Film* Crashing, directed by Gary Walkow, about a Richard (Campbell Scott), a middle-aged man who writes his new novel while crashing on the couch of two young college roommates, Kristen (Isabella Miko) and Jacqueline (Lizzy Caplan). The plot feels like the beginning porno film without actually becoming one. Kristen and Jacqueline both sleep with Richard and even kiss one another during a dream sequence. Richard comes across as a bit creepy given that he secretly roams around the two girls’ rooms to find private information about them and, in a implausible scene, figures out the Kristen’s computer password and checks her email. Writer/director Gary Walkow doesn’t offer much imagination when it comes to character development and the second act feels a bit tedious, but there are very few surprises in the third act. Fortunately, the performances help to keep this mildly compelling, thanks particularly to Lizzy Caplan, who played a Goth teen in Mean Girls, and shines here as the sexy, seductive Jacqueline. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Low. Preceded by Regarding Sarah, an smart, funny and imaginative short “documentary”, directed by Michelle Porter, about an elderly woman (Gina Stockdale) who installs many cameras throughout her house to record her daily activities. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: High.

He Was a Quiet Man, directed by Frank Capello.

Bob (Christian Slater), a lonely man, feels frustrated at work and, when he tries to shoot people in his office, a co-worker beats him to it and he ends up a saving the life of Vanessa, a sexy coworker. Not only does he get promoted by the CEO, Gene (William H. Macy), but he gets to take care of Vanessa (Elisha Cuthbert). Christian Slater gives a mediocre performance as Bob, a role that feels similar to Michael Douglas’ role in Falling Down, although his only companion is a goldfish here. William H. Macy doesn’t have enough scenes and should have played Bob instead. Of course, Vanessa and Bob to gradually fall in love, although they lack chemistry together. Cushbert is undeniably sexy and it’s quite pleasing to see her in a few nude scenes. Writer/director Frank Capello includes too many awkward scenes, though, and the plot feels tedious, predictable and contrived. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Low.
Preceded by The Saddest Boy in the World a short film by director Jamie Travis about a very sad birthday boy named Timothy. This very depressing is somewhat quirky with decent cinematography, but it doesn’t really pack enough of an emotional punch. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Low.

The Signal, directed by David Bruckner, Dan Bush, and Jacob Gentry.

A strange signal on TVs, cellphones and radios turns people violent in the city of Terminus. Myra (Anessa Ramsey) and her boyfriend, Ben (Justin Welborn) struggle to survive while Myra’s husband (AJ Bowen) has already turned violent. This sci-fi horror thriller has plenty of gore to spare, but not much in terms of an imaginative plot which feels derivative of superior movies like The Ring, 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead. David Bruckner directs the first act, “Transmission” which pretty much lives up to its title. Dan Bush directs the second act which manages to be the most entertaining with very funny one-liners and some dark comedy. The final act, directed by Jacob Gentry, feels just as dull and underwhelming as the first act. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: None is required or desired.
Preceded by The Angel a short film by director Paul Hough. The Angel of Death looks for Grandma while her granddaughter watches over her. The lighting, editing, sound and set design are all very impressive because they all help to generate a chilly atmosphere in the claustrophobic hallways of the hospital. Writer/director Paul Hough also includes some dry humor which adds some lively moments within the darkness. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: None is required or desired.

Sharkwater, directed by Rob Stewart.

A documentary about the importance of sharks in the ecosystem. Although director Rob Stewart knows how to film the ocean in all of its breathtaking beauty, he doesn’t know how to make strong arguments to prove his interesting points about sharks. Many facts appear without citing their sources and proving them with evidence. Those who come into this documentary expecting to find answers to what makes sharks so essential will come out of it with more questions than answers. For example, how do sharks affect the oxygen in the ocean? It’s interesting, though, that sharks confuse people treading in water for seals, which they like to eat. Sometimes they bite humans just out of curiosity—but, again, where’s the evidence? Eventually, the documentary shifts its focus on Rob Stewart’s adventures in the sea as he tries to evade authorities in Costa Rica and even gets injured. If he had stayed on track and delved deeper into his arguments, this would have been a much more powerful and insightful documentary that would have made you think twice before drinking shark fin soup. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Low.
Preceded by Gimme Green a short film by directors Isaac Brown and Eric Flagg about people’s obsession with lawns in America. This occasionally feels like a Christopher Guest “documentary” given the absurdity of how far people go to make their lawns look unique. There’s nothing surprising information-wise though, especially if you already know that pesticides are harmful to people. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Moderate.

When a Man Falls, directed by Ryan Eslinger.

Bill (Dylan Baker), a janitor, meets an old high school classmate, Gary (Timothy Hutton), who happens to be his boss. Gary meets another old high school classmate, Travis (Pruitt Taylor Vince). All three men suffer from their own midlife crises—Gary is the only married one though and, of course, has fallen out of love with his wife (Sharon Stone). This meandering drama has too many convoluted subplots and bizarre situations that it’ll make your head spin just thinking about. It’s alright that none of the characters are particularly likable, but, unfortunately, none of them are interesting either. Writer/director Ryan Eslinger simply fails to bring any of the scenes or characters to life, which makes everything feel dull and pointless. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: Unfortunately, none.
Preceded by High Maintenance a short film by director Phil Van about a married couple having dinner and one of them happens to be a robot. Writer/director Phil Van includes some very funny surprises along with some brief thought-provoking social commentary. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: High.

You Are Here, directed by Henry Pincus. After a night of heavy partying, Ryan (Patrick Flueger), a dj, must figure out how he ended up in bed with Apple (Katie Cassidy) instead of in the bed of his girlfriend, Cassie (Lauren German). Eventually, Aubrey (Bijou Phillips) also tries to seduce Ryan. Writer/director Henry Pincus fails to generate any believable drama, especially when a hitman (Michael Biehn) somehow gets tangled up in the plot. The hypnotic editing and shift in chronology and viewpoints makes it feel like Go, but the amateur acting and dull script makes it more of an amateur version. Many scenes drag, especially toward the end. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: Low.
Preceded by Bitch an annoying short film directed by Lilah Vandenburgh about an annoying bitch (Keira Leverton) who beats people up or makes them trip. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: None.

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