Four films screened at TCFF coming soon/out on DVD

Four films screened at TCFF coming soon/out on DVD
Saoirse Ronan in How I Live Now

From October 10 to this past Saturday, the fourth-annual Twin Cities Film Fest, a non-profit arts event, crashed at the St. Louis Park's ShowPlace Icon Theatre with 75 films. Armed with only Reese's Pieces and $4 bottles of Dasani for sustenance, I saw a paltry but manageable seven of the fest's impressive lineup (three of which we won't be reviewing because of embargoes). The festival was fantastic, and most of the films were stellar and well-chosen by the TCFF's board.

The Film: The Liability
Four films screened at TCFF coming soon/out on DVD

The Plot: A British crime comedy in which Adam, a Dreamcast-addicted Millennial, is enlisted to help Roy, an eccentric hit man, on his final assignment. Tim Roth's Roy is cool and in control. Jack O'Connell's Adam, meanwhile, is incompetent as hell -- and he messes up everything. Predictably, the next 24 hours of Adam's life hold more diagonal turns than he anticipates.

The Buzz: Most of the 16 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are fresh, but even the positive reviews are muted with praise. One reviewer even calls The Liability direct-to-DVD quality. The film was, in fact, shuttled onto DVD in January, so it's odd I saw it on the big screen in October. Ho-hum.

Review: Though The Liability isn't on par with In Bruges and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, I loved it. It's an also-ran compared to those Brit classics, but it's loads of fun watching Adam bumble through Roy's last mission. More Bruges than Lock Stock, the movie takes place in an immaculately filmed real-ish world with only a scene or two of Guy Ritchie-esque wackiness. The use of U.S. Girls' "The Island Song" elevates the film's best scene. If you like darkly humorous British crime cinema, seek this out.

Release Date: January 2013 (available on DVD now)

The Film: How I Live Now
Four films screened at TCFF coming soon/out on DVD

The Plot: In the "near future," with World War III seemingly imminent, an anxious, uptight American teen named Daisy is sent to her cousins' wacky, ramshackle home in the English countryside. Just as Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) begins to fall in love with studly, ginger-maned Edmund (George MacKay), war truly does break out, devastating Europe and wrenching Daisy from Edmund. On a quest for his love, Daisy embarks on a war-torn odyssey back to Edmund.

The Buzz: Based on an acclaimed YA novel with a decent-sized fanbase, the movie was released in the UK this month and will hit the U.S. in early November. With 21 positive reviews, versus eight rotten, the response on Rotten Tomatoes is highly fresh. Audience-wise, How I Live Now is probably more art house than Twilight-caliber, but that suits it fine. Most buzzily, everybody wants to see what Saoirse Ronan does next.

Review: Saoirse Ronan is beautiful, and How is a tone poem to her lovely countenance. It worships her face. Much about the film is admirable, including its gorgeous cinematography and the deft way it balances tones, but it never fully engages in a visceral way. Edmund and Daisy's love story is enjoyable on a superficial level, and the film's refusal to shy from the true horrors of war is respectable, but something about the flick makes it difficult to feel 100% all-in.

Release Date: November 8, 2013

The Film: The Appearing
Four films screened at TCFF coming soon/out on DVD

The Plot: Having lost their daughter in a swimming-pool accident, Michael and Rachel move to a small, woodsy town to start anew. Michael, who wears a permanently constipated facial expression, works on two-man police force that encounters its first big case in years with the disappearance of a local teenager. Meanwhile, his wife Rachel wanders the woods all day, forever clad in short skirts, and encounters evils galore, including a demon named Asmodeus who -- uh-oh! -- possesses her body. Asmodeus has nefarious intentions, et cetera.

The Buzz: Nil to zilch. Zero comments on IMDB; zero reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

Review: The best I can say about The Appearing is that it was great to see a Swayze onscreen again, as Patrick's brother Don plays the police chief. But it was weird seeing Dean Cain in this scare-free horror flick. How far you've fallen, Superman. The acting in The Appearing is poor. The characters speak like no humans I've met. The film's look is solid, though. Two questions: Why do all the teenagers look 35? Were audiences supposed to feel like they were watching second-rate David Lynch? "It was soooo bad," one cineaste whispered on the way out. How did this make it into the TCFF?

Release Date: 2014

The Film: Delivery
Four films screened at TCFF coming soon/out on DVD

The Plot: Yuppies Rachel and Kyle Massy have volunteered for Delivery, a reality show that'll document the hard-won birth of their first baby. The road to pregnancy has been rocky and pothole-filled, but they've finally got a baby bump forming. Delivery intends to show the realities of baby-having, from morning sickness to mother-in-law drama. Unfortunately, an eeeeeeeviilll supernatural entity wants to interfere, and its intentions for the Massy baby are unwholesome. Fortunately, the reality-show documentarians got it all on tape.

The Buzz: Hot hot hot. Paranormal Activity has turned into a boredom fest, and everybody's tired of found footage in general. We need a fresh fish.

Review: Delivery takes found footage in all kinds of fresh directions. It intersperses post-mortem commentary from not only the reality show's creator, but also the Massys' OB/GYN and a supernatural expert who investigated the case. Most creatively, the first half of the movie is basically the failed Delivery pilot, complete with TV G rating, reality-show melodrama, and cheesy music. The second half is devoted to found footage winnowed from 200-plus hours of Massy documentation. The movie lacks the cheap jump scares of typical FF, but that's to its benefit. Delivery was the best, horror film of TCFF. Plus, It was filmed in Minnesota.

Release Date: It's making the film-festival rounds now.

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