7 Newport Beach Film Festival Bottom Feeders

To gear up local filmgoers for the 10th annual Newport Beach Film Festival, which opens Thursday, April 23, and continues through April 30, the Weekly compiled "10 for the Tenth," brief reviews of some of the best festival features, documentaries and shorts we pre-screened for your consumption. We also blogged 5 more recommendations. 'Cause that's how we roll. But that's not all we saw. Indeed, some efforts were . . . gulp . . . how to put it? Let's just say one man's Gigantic may be another's Citizen Kane, we're just not one of them. So, as a public service, and with no drum roll at all, we present our 7 Bottom Feeders, the films we pre=screened that clicked least for us.

Dano and Deschanel, making us not care.
Dano and Deschanel, making us not care.

GIGANTIC I don't remember ever wanting to just haul out and punch a movie before Gigantic. Interrupting every scene with a proud little fart of idiosyncrasy, Matt Aselton's auteur debut provides another flimsy indie comedy for the heap. The screenplay's per-page quota of "unexpected" tweaks leaves little room for much else. There Will Be Blood's overgrown Child of the Corn, Paul Dano, plays Brian: 28 years old, timid, single, a mattress salesman, on the waiting list to adopt a Chinese baby--an apparently unexamined boyhood dream. Feeb Brian meets another homeschool-eccentric rich kid, one "Happy," played by pellucid-eyed hipster desktop-pinup and chanteuse of naptime adult contemporary, Zooey Deschanel. Happy looks good in a shortie kimono and heels, and initiates intimacy with an abrupt "Do you have any interest in having sex with me?"--behavior probably learned from John Goodman's voluminously inappropriate patriarch. Context clues suggest that the viewer is supposed to care if these nutty kids stay together. In my mind's eye's re-edit, the movie ends with a circa-1973 Joe Don Baker unexpectedly rolling into town and stomping the entire dramatis personae into jelly, but in actual fact, it wraps up with some blogrock and the "Hey, maybe there's no such thing as 'normal,' and we're all just screwed up and searching, y'know?" revelation. (Nick Pinkerton) Edwards Island 7, 999 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach. Wed., April 29, 8 p.m.

Brotherly love in "Knuckle Draggers."
Brotherly love in "Knuckle Draggers."

KNUCKLE DRAGGERS Alex Ranarivelo's romantic comedy has needy, out-of-work director Ethan (Ross McCall) facing a choice when comes to holding onto his Ms. Right (Jennifer Alden): he can ignore his unstable calling in favor of a safe job that will make him what she wants (a co-earner), or he can listen to his take-no-shit brother (Paul J. Alessi), who advocates going all Neanderthal on her because that's what women really want--am I right guys? Huh? Huh? Grunt-grunt. Um, pardon me for asking, but couldn't he do both? Or neither? Ranarivelo's uncooked script quickly slaps character "growth" on the end as if anyone gives a shit by then. McCall, Alessi and Omar Gooding as their actor friend are believable, however. (Matt Coker) Edwards Island 6. Sun., April 26, 4 p.m.; Edwards Island 1. Thurs., April 30, 3 p.m.

FINDING BLISS Jody Balaban (Leelee Sobieski) is a sexually repressed, award-winning student filmmaker who can't land a job in Hollywood until she is offered an editing gig at a porn--excuse me--adult entertainment company. She's also encouraged to make the script for the latest skin flick by crackerjack director Jeff Drake (Matt Davis) appealing to women and fit for arthouses. At first revolted by the very idea, Jody accepts after figuring out she can moonlight making of her own mainstream film with the company's equipment and, uh, talent. Director Julie Davis is helped by a couple funny lines and a game cast that includes Kristen Johnston, Denise Richards, Jamie Kennedy and his schlong. (Or is it Dirk Diggler's?). But the laughs are too few, you can see the plot twists coming from the San Fernando Valley and it's like a 14-year-old boy's view of the porn--pardon--adult industry. (MC) Edwards Island 6. Mon., April 27, 7 p.m.

MY SUICIDE: A SELF INFLICTED COMEDY More like a self inflicted blown opportunity. High school geek Archie Williams (Gabriel Sunday) announces his own suicide as the subject of his film class project, splitting the student body, freaking out school authorities and law enforcement and winning our budding Soderbergh the affection of campus hottie Sierra (Brooke Nevin). Producer-writer-director David Lee Miller has a bold premise and a pretty good leading man in Sunday, but the film is clunky and, in the first two acts, way too precious. Thus, viewers are understandably jarred when the final act abandons the cutes and yuks for heavy drama--incompetently. You wonder not why Arch did or did not take his own life, you wonder what the hell Miller has on Nora Dunn, David Carradine, Joe Mantegna and Mariel Hemingway to get them to appear in this. (MC) Regency Lido, 3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach. Fri., April 24, 8:30 p.m.

FOLLOW THE PROPHET For her 15th birthday, Avery (Annie Burgstede) receives from her father a necklace and an ice cream cone. But that's not the only "gifts" he'll spring while tucking her in for the night, revealing he's about to pop her cherry and ship her off to marry an old man, Brother John (Tom Noonan), the "prophet" who leads their religious cult. Avery runs away and into the pickup of Jude Marks (Robert Chimento, who also wrote the script), a grizzled Army vet and grieving father whose daughter was ambushed serving in Iraq. Avery and the colonel later join forces to expose incest and polygamy in a state that surely rhymes with "Utah." If director Drew Ann Rosenberg cuts Burgstede's dancing-while-nude scene (she's playing 15. Ew.) and figures out a way to improve the continuity of this disjointed effort--which lamely manufactures a U.S. military cover-up of polygamy--she might have an okay Lifetime Channel movie on her hands. (MC) Edwards Island 6. Wed., April 29, 5:30 p.m.

A vampire stages his play--which has the same title as this movie--not to produce an off-off Broadway hit but to corral more victims for his blood thirst. This is one of those films that looks like A) it had some money behind it and, 2) you are supposed to like because Sean Lennon did the music, Ralph Macchio and Jeremy Sisto have small parts and some supermodel-quality women appear nude or very close to it. But, goddamn it, this is one steaming pile of pretentious New York City bullshit. I mean, who the hell is a fella supposed to root for in Jordan Galland's "comedy"? With a fang to your neck, you might choose Kris Lemche, the play-within-the-stinker's slimy Hamlet, but only if you're buttering him up to take the lead role in your movie based on Rob Lowe's sexploits. (MC) Edwards Island 1. Sun., April 26, 8:30 p.m.

LONELY STREET Producer and New Jersey native Jay Mohr miscasts himself as Bubba Mabry, a private detective in Albuquerque with the world's worst Mississippi accent (?). He finds himself in the employ of "Mr. Aaron," who is really the not-dead King of Rock 'n' Roll (Robert Patrick, under heavy makeup and actually nailing it as one would imagine a health-obsessed, Hip Hop-loving, 74-year-old Elvis Presley would be). A tabloid shutterbug Mabry is hired to follow gets whacked, and Peter Ettinger's who-the-hell-cares-whodunnit, based on newspaper columnist Steve Brewer's novel, offers Elvis, his burly bodyguard (Mike Starr, with the world's second-worst Mississippi accent), his slimy record producer (Joe Mantegna, two-for-two in awful cameos in 2009 NBFF entries), Mohr's real-life wife (Nikki Cox, looking as if she has grounds for a successful Botox malpractice suit) and even Bubba as possible suspects. Mohr, funny as hell, must know Lonely Street blows. (MC) Edwards Island 1. Sun., April 26, 8:30 p.m.

Tickets are $8-$12 per screening. Hey, it's your money. Galas, parties and receptions generally cost extra. Call (949) 253-2880 or log on to newportbeachfilmfest.com for tickets and other festival details. More reviews, news and on-the-scene reporting from NBFF is forthcoming on ocweekly.com.

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