A rundown of some of the flicks we've caught at Cinevegas thus far.
Big Heart City
Shawn Andrews (Dazed and Confused) stars as Frank Polowski, a cocky gambler who has returned to town after six months on a fishing boat in Alaska. He's come to reclaim his pregnant girlfriend, but she's gone missing -- and this is the all-too-predictable mystery of our tale. During his search, Frank takes a job working for Larry (Seymour Cassell) and spends his days telling Larry tall tales of his adventures and happy home life that doesn't really exist. I know there are art house aficionados that will find something more here than I did, but personally, I think this is the kind of indie fare that completely alienates movie fans who "took a chance on that indie once." The dialogue is very sparse, the characters are completely unsympathetic and, let's face it; there just isn't much of a story here.
Your Name Here
Bill Pullman stars as a thinly-veiled version of Philip K. Dick by the name of William J. Frick in this trippy, semi-autobiographical tale of a financially strapped, slightly-crazed science fiction writer. As Frick, Pullman dances in and out of reality whilst thwarting off his ex-wives and their alimony demands, the IRS, his connection to a gang of meth-making bikers and his not-so-dilligent work on what may or may not be his greatest novel. Pullman is terrific but, alas, the movie is not. Director Matthew Wilder's tale veers heavily into Lynch and Cronenberg territory, never managing to pull itself together into anything especially meaningful. Instead, Your Name Here is merely content wallowing in its weirdness.
Happy Birthday, Harris Malden
Comedy team Sweaty Robot (check out our interview with Sweaty Robot) debuts their first feature film adapted from one of their acclaimed shorts -- a silly little tale about a fellow who fakes his facial hair. Nick Gregorio stars as Harris, who has been living a lie since his father was killed in a fire many years ago and he lost the ability to grow facial hair. For years Harris has been drawing his facial hair on with a sharpie or makeup and his best friend Paul (Eric M. Levy) has never had the heart to tell him how ridiculous he actually looks. Sweaty Robot brings their own unique brand of humor (think something along the lines of The State meets Kids in the Hall) to this story and sticks to their own sensibilities relentlessly. Not every joke is a gem, but there are enough laughs that you should soon find yourself seduced into the fun.
Director Rachel Samuels, who cut her teeth as an alumni of Roger Corman's esteemed school of filmmaking, takes a shoestring budget and manages to recreate the glitz of a 1930's jazz nightclub in this clever homage to the likes of Busby Berkeley and Mickey Spillane. Gabriel Mann (Life of David Gale, Bourne Supremacy) stars as Chaz Davenport, a nightclub owner and wannabe playboy who finds himself in over his head mixing it up with the mob and the IRS. His star attraction, Crystal (Bijou Phillips), is vying for his affection, but he soon finds himself distracted by a new vixen named Madelaine (Izabella Miko) who might not be as sweet as she looks. The story is narrated by the incredibly unique Toledo Diamond, whose varied performance is the standout of Dark Streets. The story lags at times and feels a bit convoluted, but the gorgeous visuals and exceptional soundtrack (including B.B. King, Dr. John and Etta James, to name just a few) combine to deliver a highly entertaining and dazzling piece of filmmaking.
Where I Stand
Probably the most fitting debut at Cinevegas, Where I Stand is a documentary chronicling the life of Vegas legend Hank Greenspun. Considering his epic journey from journalist to associate of mob icon Benjamin "Bugsy" Segal and ultimate founder of the Las Vegas Sun and its long-running "Where I Stand" editorial, saying Hank Greenspun lead a full life might just be the understatement of the century. Director Scott Goldstein combines partially colored stills, old interview footage and the fitting narration of Anthony Hopkins to create an informative and fascinating investigation of Greenspun's utterly fascinating adventures in Sin City.