20Fingers(BeestAnghosht). (Iran) Mania Akbari directs and co-stars (with Bijan Daneshmand) in this dramatic exploration of the relationship between an Iranian man and woman. We see them through a series of seven conversations, chronicling the ups and downs of their relationship as they struggle to define their roles as individuals and a couple within the traditions of Iranian society. 20Fingershad its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 2004, where it was crowned best film.

50WaystoLeaveYourLover. (United States) Owen is sick of writing sleazy biographies for a living, so he decides to chuck it all and move back East. But at the airport he encounters an old crush and soon finds himself falling into a most inconvenient love. Jordan Hawley's romantic comedy features a cast of familiar faces, including a down-on-her-luck Tori Spelling and the ubiquitous Fred Willard.

5thWorld. (United States) West Coast premiere of Blackhorse Lowe's romance that follows two American Indian college students as they hitchhike home to the reservation and fall in love along the way. As the two flirt, talk about their favorite movies and visit relatives, we glimpse a side of the Navajo people little seen in the movies before. Attended by director and cast.

AftertheApocalypse. (United States) Yasuaki Nakajima's sci-fi drama has one woman and four men struggling to survive in the aftermath of WWIII. Rendered mute by a gas, they're forced to communicate without words and work together to try and rebuild their shattered lives. This arty offering is filmed in black and white, with no dialogue (but lots of wild gesturing) and with the garbage-ridden streets of Brooklyn and Queens serving as the post-apocalyptic landscape. It could not possibly be more “film school,” but the film does have its admirers, among them our sister paper Village Voice's David Ng, who wrote, “As an experiment in regressive playfulness, it delivers nicely, with inspiration coming from Aki Kaurismaki's Juha.”

Alice'sMisadventuresinWonderland.(United States) Robert Rugan's satire recasts Lewis Carroll's surreal classic of English children's literature as a contemporary and very grown-up tale. If Carroll's rep could survive the nine zillion wacky adaptations of the past century, he can survive this too. Rugan attends the screening.

Apartment202. (United States) Occasionally amusing romantic comedy, making its world premiere, about two San Francisco guys who fall for two foreign gals, marry them so they can stay in the country, and then face the inevitable culture clash.

TheAryanCouple. (United States) WWII drama about an elderly German/Jewish businessman who is forced to hand over all he owns to the Nazis in order to ensure his family's safe passage out of Germany, while the Aryan couple who work for him as servants are left in serious danger. Venerable character actor Martin Landau (who has impressed audiences in projects ranging from the original Mission:Impossibleto Tim Burton's Ed Wood) stars. “Directed with the flat artlessness of a lower-rung MasterpieceTheaterentry, pulling heartstrings with Igor Khoroshev's lugubrious score and scripted with banal bromides insulting to its subject matter, TheAryanCoupledestroys any chances of becoming the absurdist wartime thriller it should have been,” wrote our other sister paper LA Weekly's Kim Morgan. Director John Daly attends.

Autumn(Automne). (United States) Jean-Pierre (Laurent Lucas) is a reluctant hit man who sees his rekindled romance with his childhood sweetheart Michelle (Irene Jacob) as the means to a better life; but when he learns Michelle has stolen a mysterious suitcase, he feels himself being pulled back into the world of crime he's trying to leave behind. (West Coast premiere)

BaptistsatOurBarbecue. (United States) In Christian Vuissa's strenuously quirky comedy, Tartan Jones (Dan Merkley), an unhappily single guy perilously close to 30, escapes from Mormon Utah only to wind up in Longwinded, USA, a Southwestern town where things look little better: marriage prospects are slim, and the town is beset by feuding Mormons and Baptists.

TheBreakupArtist. (United States) Rare indeed is the romantic comedy that unapologetically approaches love from the guy's P.O.V., and this film aims to do just that. Jim (Joseph Taylor) is a 35-year-old New Yorker looking for true love; unfortunately, he has much more expertise at getting out of relationships than he does at staying in them. Will Jim find a girl he can stay in love with for more than six months? Vincent Rubino, producer of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, directed, produced and co-wrote this low-budget, DV feature.

ButterflyintheWind(Parvanei DarBaad). (Iran) This Iranian drama, making its U.S. premiere, is about a woman, newly released from prison, who goes in search of her daughter and her traitorous husband on the Iran/Pakistan border.

CrazyLikeaFox. (United States) In this red state vs. blue state drama, Nat Banks (Roger Rees) is a proud, eighth-generation Virginian farmer who loses the family farm, Greenwood, to a predatory pair of land speculators from D.C. Nat goes temporarily nuts, hiding out in a cave and waging guerrilla war to take back his farm. Director Richard Squires attends.

DatingGamesPeoplePlay. (United States) Local boy Stefan Marc writes, directs, produces, co-stars in and presumably caters this romantic comedy set in Newport Beach and making its U.S. premiere . . . in Newport Beach! Nick Jenkins (Austin Peck) just got dumped by his fiancee, and now his best bud Jed (Marc) is trying to help him wade back into the dating pool. Soon Nick meets Mona (Leslie Bega, the 77th hottest woman alive, sez Maxim). Nick begins to fall in love despite himself, but he's torn between his feelings for Mona and his career ambitions. Er, dude . . . Maxim's 77th hottest woman alive? C'mon already.
See Greg Stacy's interview with Marc: “True Love Never Did Run Smooth”

DearPillow. (United States) The Catcher in the Rye, The 400 Blows, Freaks and Geeks, Napoleon Dynamite . . . there have been many worthy depictions of the pimply purgatory that is male adolescence, but Bryan Poyser's Dear Pillow is the first movie we've seen that effectively captures the frustrated, greasy, confused, self-hating horniness that so many young men know all too well. Rusty Kelley stars as Wes, a 17-year-old supermarket bag boy who finds a surprising comradeship with Dusty (Gary Chason), an old, gay porn writer who lives in his apartment complex. Kelley looks and acts like a real kid, and that means he is not a type we're used to seeing in the movies. He's not Jason Schwartzman funky-cute; he's schlubby and slumpy and looks like he stinks. He's fantastic. As for Chason, in 35 years of acting, this is the first time he's played a character with an actual name, and here's hoping he doesn't have to wait 35 years for the next one. The film is not without humor, but it does take us to some very dark, disturbing places; no, it doesn't venture into NAMBLA territory, but let's just say that it's rather startling that this movie is screening in W's America at all, let alone in Newport Beach. While its truths may be ugly ones, they're truths worth saying.
See Greg Stacy's interview with Poyser: “Pillow Talk.”

TheDefinitionofInsanity. (United States, Switzerland) Robert Margolis co-writes, co-directs and stars in this semiautobiographical docudrama about a fading actor (Margolis) who is forced to take a hard look at his life after meeting a legendary director (Peter Bogdanovich as himself).

DeliveryBoyChronicles. (United States) Stacey Childer's fumbly comedy about a group of Georgian, young(ish) food-delivery drivers struggling to figure out their futures. Personally it just made us tired and cranky, but Stina Chyn of FilmThreatsaw something more: “However random the visual and verbal humor might appear, it's all there for a reason. The talking camel, the attacking ostriches, the assaulting bosom, and the lawn-chair cooler make you laugh until your stomach hurts.” The cast includes singer Shawn Mullins.

Dirt. (United States) Nancy Savoca's drama follows Julieta (Julieta Ortiz), an undocumented domestic worker trying to get by in New York while she copes with troubles on the job, her Americanized son and the looming threat of “La Migra.” “It's a cable TV drama that suffers from a certain ennobling 'up-with-Latina-maids' pedantry,” wrote Seattle Weekly's Brian Miller, “but it never gets too screechy about it.”

EatingOut. (United States) Q. Allan Brocka's romantic comedy involves Three's Company-esque deceptions and complications, as a college student pretends to be gay to woo a girl who likes femme guys. But when she tries to set him up with one of her gay friends, hijinx ensue! Come and knock on our door . . .

Everyone. (Canada) The upcoming nuptials of Ryan and Grant cause five couples to take close looks at their own relationships in Bill Marchant's sprawling, noisy comedy.

FirstMorning(Buoi SangDauNam). (United States) Tuan Nguyen returns to the unhappy home of his family and tries to solve the mystery of his younger sister's disappearance. This quest leads us back several decades, to the days when the family escaped from Vietnam. Tuan learns much about his sister's hard road to independence, but will he find out what's become of her? (West Coast premiere)

GooseFeather(Jesenstize,dunjomoja). (Serbia/Montenegro) Ljubisa Samardzic's romance is sent in the dark days of WWI and follows Sava, a man who is about to enter a prestigious but loveless marriage. Through his memories, we see what has brought him to this sorry situation and how he lost the true love of his life.

HateCrime. (United States) Robbie and Trey are a gay couple facing persecution from their bigoted new neighbor, Chris. But then one night Trey disappears, and Chris and Robbie are both suspects in the case. Desperate to find out what's happened to Trey and to clear his own name, Robbie turns to some unlikely sources for help. Ubiquitous character actor Bruce Davison (among his many other titles, X-Men, where he patterned his character after Bob Dornan) co-stars as Chris' fundamentalist preacher papa. The cast attends this show. Dornan? Not so much.

HaveaGoodTrip(DrumBun). (Hungary) A young man named Martin leaves for Transylvania to search for his father after the old man mysteriously disappears . . . yes, that sounds like the opening of a vampire movie, but the people Martin encounters are just as exotic (if not quite so dangerous) as any undead bloodsucker. He finds himself involuntarily bound to a scrappy Romanian couple, and together they embark on a darkly comic journey in which Martin discovers that the land of Vlad the Impaler is nothing like he imagined.

Headrush. (Ireland) Shimmy Marcus' comic drama introduces us to Charlie and his pal T-Bag, two stoners who live in a happy haze of pot smoke. But when Charlie's girlfriend dumps him and he's kicked off the dole, he and T-Bag decide it's time to put their lives back together. How? Why, by becoming drug mules and smuggling coke for a local mob character. Their adventure takes them deep into unknown territory, with both cops and mobsters on their trail. “The jokes are cliched, childish and painfully unfunny,” said a disgruntled Irish reviewer on the Internet Movie Database. “Shimmy Marcus should just give up now. He should never be allowed to make another film.” Well, then.

HowYouLooktoMe. (United States) World premiere of J. Miller Tobin's drama that follows William (Romans Bruce), a young, spoiled playboy who is forced to take a serious look at his life when his family threatens to cut him off financially. He heads back to graduate school, reunites with two old pals and falls in love. But will he be able to leave behind his irresponsible ways for good? Former DraculaFrank Langella co-stars as William's professor.

HumanError. (United States) Robert M. Young adapts Richard Dresser's award-winning satirical play Below the Beltfor the screen, bringing this postindustrial, pre-apocalyptic tale to life through the capable acting of such vets as 24's Xander Berkeley and some low-budget CGI. Young attends this, the film's West Coast premiere.

HumanTouch. (South Australia) Paul Cox (Man of Flowers)directs this drama about Edward, a wealthy practitioner of the art of nude photography who becomes obsessed with Anna, a young musician in a troubled relationship.

InterviewingNorman. (United States) Endearingly goofy mockumentary, making its world premiere, in which a gung-ho filmmaker sets out to interview an inept and rather gentle minion of Satan. There are flashes of talent and nobody embarrasses themselves, but everything about the film falls just short of good: the writing, the performances, the look . . . it's all just notquitethere.If some friend of yours maxed out his credit card making this thing, after he showed it to you you'd bite your lip and say, “Well, it's obvious you tried really hard . . .” Then you'd go home, pour yourself a stiff drink and spend half an hour staring into the darkness, muttering, “Poor bastard. Poor, poor bastard.”

JesustheDriver. (United States) Jesus Perez, whom you may remember as “Oscar” from BreadandRosesor “Mexican Janitor” from The Day After Tomorrow, stars in this comedy about a day laborer who crosses paths with two small-town losers on the run from the law.

LadiesinLavender. (United Kingdom) Just how English is this movie? It stars Dames Maggie Smith andJudi Dench, as spinster sisters Ursula and Janet Widington. This thing couldn't be more English if Prince Charles directed it. It's 1936, and the Widington ladies take in a young man who has washed ashore in their insular seaside community. But their act of kindness raises suspicions amongst their neighbors, and soon paranoia threatens to tear their little town apart. Charles Dance directs.

LateWatch. (United States) Travis (Stephen Daniels) is a struggling writer who imagines that a job as a late-night security guard will allow him the time to finish his novel. Of course, things don't work out as he planned, and instead of writing he finds most of his attention focused on studying the habits of his bleary-eyed co-workers. Henry S. Miller's dark comedy asks the questions that every security guard tries very hard not to ask himself: “What are we protecting? Why are we securing an area already littered with security cameras? Is there really no brighter future than retirement with a beer gut and two bad knees?” (West Coast premiere)

Love,Ludlow. (United States) After a dating drought that's lasted for years, Myra (Alicia Goranson) agrees to go on a date with Reggie (David Eigenberg), an affable but fragile fellow from the office where Myra's been temping. Unfortunately, Myra's eccentric, bratty, aspiring artist brother Ludlow (Brendon Sexton) doesn't take too kindly to the new guy and does his best to nip this relationship in the bud. Adrienne Weiss' second feature (following 1999's Pyrite) is a dark romantic comedy a world away from, say, your typical Julia Roberts picture.

Max&Grace. (United States) Two suicidal souls meet in an institution, fall in love, get married and escape in Michael Parness' dark comedy, making its West Coast premiere. The cast features a gallery of Hollywood's underappreciated players, including David Krumholtz, Natasha Lyonne, Tim Blake Nelson, Lorraine Bracco, David Paymer and Rosanna Arquette.

MyBigFatIndependentMovie. (United States) The past 20 years of indie movies get skewered in this new parody, making its West Coast premiere, directed by Philip Zlotorynski and produced (and co-written) by Film Threat founder Chris Gore. Memento, Blair Witch, Amelie, Clerks–you name it, and this movie gives it the business. Paget Brewster, Bob Odenkirk and the immortal Clint Howard star.

Myron'sMovie. (United States) A 13-year-old boy wires his family's home with spy cameras to capture the hypocrisy of his relatives when they gather for the funeral of a despised uncle. But young Myron sees more than he planned, and now his footage could tear his family apart. Director Maggie Soboil attends.

ThePainting. (United States) Peter Manoogian and Joshua Rose co-directed this drama about the unfortunately timed romance of a wealthy, naive white kid who falls in love with a black girl in the '60s. Their love is particularly troubling to the girl's father, the chauffeur who has, until now, been a trusted mentor to the boy. Clifton Davis, Debbie Allen and Ben Vereen star.

Peaches. (Australia) Craig Monahan's drama chronicles the sometimes fractious relationship between a teenage girl and the aunt who is raising her. But when the girl reads the diary of her late mother, she learns about her aunt's youthful relationship with an older foreman (portrayed by Hugo Weaving, the indelibly creepy Agent Smith from the Matrixpictures) and sees the aunt in a new light.

Pizza. (United States) In Mark Christopher's dark teen comedy, an unpopular, chunky girl's lonely 18th birthday takes an unexpected turn when a good-looking, slacker pizza delivery guy shows up and takes her out for an evening that's almost a date, if you consider pizza stops, a little dancing and some blunt conversation to be a date. Is love in the cards for these two misfits? Christopher attends.

ThePornographer(ALoveStory). (United States) Martin Donovan stars in Alan Wade's drama about a director who becomes obsessed with an actress from his previous film and concocts a new, bogus project just to spend time with her. But what will happen when she realizes that the film they're working on doesn't really exist?

Puppy. (Australia) A woman on the brink of suicide is taken hostage by an unbalanced man who believes she is his missing wife. She plays along, and an unlikely affection blossoms between them in Kieran Galvin's Australian drama, making its world premiere.

ARelativeThing. (United States) This family drama strives to be TheBigChillmeets On Golden Pond, but it falls short due to a weak script, an abundance of moviemaking cliches and a deficit of chemistry between the actors.

RevengeoftheTeenageZombies(DieNachtDerLebendenLoser). (Germany) Mathias Dinter's horror comedy follows three hapless teens, Philip, Konrad and Weener, who experiment with voodoo and end up as zombies following a car accident. If you think that Peter Jackson hit his peak back in the BadTastedays and you keep waiting for him to go back to directing low-budget, gross-out zombie comedies with people's brains being eaten and all that, here's something to tide you over in the meantime.

RiceRhapsody(HainanJiFan). (Hong Kong/Singapore) Jen (Sylvia Chang) has raised her three sons alone; her two older sons are gay, and she's worried that if the third son turns out to be gay too, she'll never have any grandchildren. So she and a friend devise a plan to keep the kid straight by bringing a cute French exchange student to live with them. Damn, fellas, don't you wish yourmom had been that worried about your sexual orientation? (U.S. premiere)

StayUntilTomorrow. (United States) Laura Colella's free-ranging romantic comedy follows Nina (Eleanor Hutchins), a former soap star turned drifter who drifts back into the life of her childhood pal Jim (Barney Cheng). Jim is a straight-laced librarian in a serious relationship, and when Nina asks to stay with him, he agrees with no idea of just how complicated his life is about to get.

Sundowning. (United States) James Cole's drama introduces us to the Pritchard men of Little Stone Island, Maine, who have worked as lobstermen for three generations and lived alone for the past 15 years, the women of the family long gone. It's a harsh existence, and in recent years they've struggled to get by on dwindling catches while facing increasingly hostile competition from Canadian fishermen. But when a quiet Canadian woman moves in next door, the lives of the Pritchard men become even more complicated.

TakeaDeepBreath. (Serbia/Montenegro) Dragan Marinkovic's drama concerns Sasha (Ana Franic), a young woman who is moving to Canada with her boyfriend Stefan (Branislav Tomasevic) when they're in a car accident that leaves Stefan hospitalized. Sasa, meanwhile, is relatively unharmed, and while she awaits her boyfriend's recovery she finds herself entering a passionate relationship with his sister. If this were a sleazy porn movie, things would probably work out just fine for Stefan, but no: the poor guy is stuck in a drama and his life just sucks.

TakeOut. (United States) This drama is sort of a less flashy, Asian Run Lola Run, as Ming (Charles Jang), a Chinese immigrant, spends a shift on his Manhattan food delivery route scrambling to earn enough tips to pay off the huge debt he owes to the men who smuggled him to America. Directors Sean Baker and Shih-Ching Tsou effectively capture the tension of poor Ming's strange predicament: make twice an average day's wages, or face some extremely grim consequences. “Not to be missed,” wrote Village Voice's David Ng, “this zero-budget feature makes the most of its crude production values.”

Tennis,Anyone...?(United States) Two struggling actors bond on the set of a low-budget movie, but when the more successful of the pair turns to his new friend for advice about his career and marriage, the results are catastrophic. It's a new comedy written, directed by and starring Donal Logue, the GroundedforLifestar who has provided much amusing improv commentary for VH1's various I Love the (Insert Decade Here) series. The enterprising Logue also talked some of his celeb pals (Jason Isaacs, Stephen Dorff, Paul Rudd) into co-starring. Efilmcritic.com said that the film offers “great acting, a lot of great cast members [and] good moments,” but suffered from “[a] choppy nature, some very slow scenes, tacked-on Hollywood ending, and a sense of disorganization.”

TheTollbooth. (United States) A young Jewish artist tries to make it on her own in the big city despite pressures from her goyim boyfriend and domineering parents. This film just flat out needs more work (and a bigger budget? Couldn't hurt). Some scenes drag too long, but the acting is first-rate, especially Tovah Feldshuh as the mom (a role that garnered her the best supporting actor award at the recent Method Fest in Calabasas). Never could figure out why they settled on this title. There is no tollbooth to speak of in this movie. The toll one's modern beliefs take on religious traditions? Hmmm.

WalkingOntheSky. (United States) A suspicious death and the discovery of a troubling diary force six friends to look at long-buried secrets and examine their own lives in this 2003 drama written, directed by and starring former AstheWorldTurnsactor Carl T. Evans. Preceded by TheRaven, a Yale short.

WelcometoSeptember. (United States) Phillip Scarpaci's slow-paced but evocative drama, making its world premiere, follows Drew McCullough (Victor Burke), a lonely Irishman who finds himself entirely too fascinated by a painting he's glimpsed in a gallery window. It's a portrait of a gorgeous brunette, and, as Drew stands transfixed by her image, the woman steps from the canvas and they fall into a passionate kiss. It's over in an instant, but after that poor Drew can't get the woman out of his mind. He becomes determined to acquire that painting at all costs, even as he begins to wonder (with good reason) if he's lost his mind. Burke nicely underplays his role as a polite little man who is none too thrilled when his humdrum reality is intruded upon by the forces of magical realism.

What'sBuggingSeth. (United States) West Coast premiere of Eli Steele's drama about a deaf, aspiring bug exterminator proves that a filmmaker can throw all his passion into a film, create something really unique, carefully observed, good-looking and memorable . . . but still not make a very good film. Sometimes it's difficult, even for we professional cranks, to articulate why it is that something doesn't work. You just know that 10 minutes in, you started checking your watch. What'sBuggingSethis hardly another cookie-cutter indie, but, bless its heart, it is a watch-checker.

TheWildGuys. (Canada) An uncharitable soul might call this comedy the Canadian UptheCreek,as three big-city dudes journey out to the woods seeking adventure and end up facing unexpected dangers as well as their own anxieties about growing older and their inadequacies as manly men.

TheWorks. (United States) In Gal Katzir's comedy, making its world premiere, a lonely corporate exec is shaken out of his humdrum routine when he is unexpectedly befriended by an eccentric millionaire and a handy, pretty young plumber named Eve. DeepSpaceNineand Buffyregular Armin Shimerman co-stars.


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