NBFF Forever!

Your cheat sheet for the Newport Beach Film Festival, from the parties to the flicks about speed-dating geezers

Wait, there is one more, and it is really special. Remember Fuck: The Fuckumentary, a documentary about the dreaded F-word that played at NBFF 2006? Remember the aforementioned Jon Favreau-starring The Big Empty? The director of both of those, Steve Anderson, is back with The Last Lonely Place, a feature-length, modern noir flick about a despondent LA cab driver whose last fare of his last night on the job leads to disaster. The king of noir films was Humphrey Bogart, who has a Newport Beach connection from he and wife Lauren Bacall having sailed their boat The Santana out of Newport Harbor in the 1940s and '50s. Well, get this: The Bogart family has blessed The Last Lonely Place and plans are afoot to bring Bacall and her son Stephen Bogart to the Lido (what better place?) for the screening. Besides the foray into noir, why would the Bogart family warm up to Anderson? Perhaps it has to do with the name of his company: Santana Films.

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THE SPOTLIGHTS
With apologies to the movies noted before, world premieres can be hit-and-miss. For every decent one, there are many, many more duds (I'm looking at you, 2012's Shanghai Calling). I'd wager the odds are much better hitting the Spotlight Films, which are films that have been popular in designated countries or geographical regions (such as Ireland, France or the Pacific Rim) or at recent film festivals (such as Toronto, Sundance and SXSW).

"We have dramatically expanded our Friday- and Saturday-night [screenings]," Schwenk says. "There will be too many high-profile films."

This is because past festival audiences have let the programmers know through tickets sales that the Spotlights are the most popular attractions. The need to feed the frenzy is reflected in the following Spotlight selections.

April 25's Featured Spotlights: Charlie McDowell's smart The One I Love has a couple (Mad Men's Elizabeth Moss and The League's Mark Duplass) trying to save a marriage with a romantic getaway to a vacation house, where they find something unexpected; Ted Danson co-stars. Amma Asante's Belle is based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (played by Gugu Mbatha Raw), the illegitimate, mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral who helps shape history and the eventual end to slavery in England; the stellar cast includes Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson and Emily Watson. Stuart Murdoch's Scottish pop-rock musical God Help The Girl has the title character (the girl, not God) dealing with emotional problems in a Glasgow hospital, where she starts writing songs and experiencing the healing power of music that will lead to a rebirth. Writer/director Amit Gupta's Jadoo, which has two other screenings scheduled during this NBFF, is about two bickering brothers who split the family cookbook—one receiving appetizers, the other entrées—and are now being asked by the daughter of one master of Indian cuisine to come together and cook for her upcoming wedding. Jocelyn Towne and The Big Bang Theory's Simon Helberg's We'll Never Have Paris has—shall we say nebbish?—Helberg poised to propose to his girlfriend when his tall, hot, blond co-worker confesses her love to him. He goes for the blonde, the girlfriend goes to Paris to find herself, he then regrets his decision and hops the pond to win back the g.f., and the blonde goes to Frogland herself to win him back. Jay Karas' crowd-pleasing comedy Break Point is about a tennis player (Jeremy Sisto) getting dropped by his doubles partner and, having burned all his bridges in the pros, is forced to convince his childhood partner and estranged brother Darren to join him on the court; the cast includes Amy Smart, JK Simmons, Adam Devine and Chris Parnell.

April 26's Featured Spotlights: Jason Priestley of Beverly Hills, 90210 and Call Me Fitz fame directs Cas & Dylan, which also has two other festival screenings, features Richard Dreyfuss as a terminally ill physician who decides to end it all before reluctantly agreeing to give a 22-year-old social misfit a short ride home that turns into a long adventure. James Gray's The Immigrant, set in the early 1920s, is about a Catholic Polish immigrant to the U.S. (Marion Cotillard) being forced into prostitution by a brutal man (Joaquin Phoenix, a frequent Gray collaborator) before Jeremy Renner (Kill the Messenger) comes to her rescue. Christian Camargo's surreal Days and Nights, which is inspired by Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, has a 1980s movie star bringing her paramour to a lakeside estate in rural New England to visit her family on Memorial Day weekend, when all hell breaks loose; Katie Holmes, Jean Reno, Allison Janney and William Hurt star. Michael Damian's romantic comedy Love By Design has a Romanian fashionista losing her job in New York City after clashing with her über-diva boss (Jane Seymour) and returning to her family farm in Transylvania, where she is inspired by a charming Brit to launch a clothing line in time for the NYC Fashion Week. Writers/directors Danny Jacobs and Darren Grodsky's Growing Up and Other Lies has Mr. The O.C. himself, Adam Brody, convincing his best buddies to help retrace their greatest adventure together—walking down the entire length of Manhattan—before he returns to Ohio upon having chucked the struggling artist life; the cast includes Wyatt Cenac, Amber Tamblyn and Lauren Miller. Comedy-nerd "it" girl Jenny Slate heads a cast that also includes Tamblyn's hubby, David Cross, in writer/director Gillian Robespierre's Obvious Child, about a twentysomething comic getting dumped, losing her job and finding herself preggers just in time for Valentine's Day. Two NBFF programmers confess it was the funniest film they saw at this year's Sundance.

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