At the risk of repeating myself, the Newport Beach Film Festival lineup has included another little indie comedy gem from Canada that has turned out to be one of my favorite pictures of the whole bloody run. Two NBFFs ago, it was Servitude. Last year, it was I Declare War. This year, it's Cas & Dylan, which gets a repeat, closing-night showing tonight.
Where quirky Servitude somehow squeezed comic gold out of what appeared to be a small budget and single shooting location, and quirkier I Declare War was a purposely cliched war picture involving fields, children and their fertile imaginations, Cas & Dylan is a more traditional road picture.
Dr. Cas Pepper (THE Mr. Richard Dreyfuss) is diagnosed with a terminal illness that has him leaving Winnipeg for British Columbia, where he plans to do himself in. But he unwittingly becomes a fugitive on the run with aspiring young writer and free spirit Dylan Morgan (Tatiana Maslany). Let the open-road adventure begin!
I wasn't expecting much from this setup or a film directed by Beverly Hills, 90210's Jason Priestly. But it turns out he has more than 20 directing credits and not all of them are episodes of Call Me Fitz. He frames some beautiful shots in Cas & Dylan, although I'm not sure if some credit goes to the Canadian stock footage used in the production. Whatever the source, Priestly keeps the story moving forward like Dr. Pepper's zippy VW Bug.
The real strength of the picture is the quality acting interplay between Oscar winner Dreyfuss and Maslany, who stars in Orphan Black on BBC America. (How's this for local trivia: now in its second season, the Canadian show made its U.S. debut on March 29, 2013, in Anaheim–at WonderCon). Dreyfuss has a rep for being prickly, which serves him well in this little picture. But both Dreyfuss/Cas meet their match in Maslany/Dylan. If you can't make the festival's repeat screening, do yourself a favor and Netflix it some lazy afternoon. (5:45 p.m. at Fashion Island Cinemas)
More recommendations follow …
Steven Kochones' documentary, which screens as part of the Rocking Shorts (Docs) program, is a breezy and informative look at the photographers who have snapped pictures of classic rock stars since before the term "classic rock" was coined. It's hard work to get and keep those media passes, but some shooters have actually befriended their famous subjects. (5:30 p.m. at The Triangle)
Shane Atkinson's dark comedy, which screens as part of the Against Short Odds short film program, is about the kidnapper of a little girl getting way more than he bargained for. The acting is superb, the movie is well paced and here is the biggest compliment I can think of: Penny Dreadful gave me a craving for a feature-length version with the crew, actors and writer (Atkinson). (8 p.m. at The Triangle)