Lucky
Artwork and Review By: Daniel Albert
The best part about seeing a movie at a festival is the fact that you never know what to expect.  You can speculate all you want but generally the movie has much less out in the blogosphere/internet realm to give away any juicy detail that may be better left experienced first hand.  There generally aren’t many reviews (if any) or spoilers floating around to ruin the surprise and what you end up with is a completely open minded look at a film for better or for worse.
Well that’s exactly what I got when I saw Lucky.  The only prior knowledge of the film that I had was an approximately 200 word blurb, a cast of characters and the theater at which it would be playing.  That’s it!  I had no biased reviews, no one’s interpretation on whether they felt it was good or bad which made it all the more fulfilling when it was absolutely brilliant.  I felt as if I was a little kid playing in the yard and I had just found an arrowhead or an old matchbox car or a diamond ring.  I had stumbled upon something special and it was my little discovery (along with about 250 others in attendance).
Lucky is about Ben (Colin Hanks), a normal guy shyly pursuing the girl of his dreams, a woman named Lucy (Ari Graynor) whom he’s known almost his whole life.  When Ben finds out he’s won the Iowa State lottery he’s seemingly upset until Lucy finally comes around and gives Ben the attention he’s so desperately wanted.  The two begin a romance and everything seems to be falling into place for the couple until Lucy discovers that Ben’s got some skeletons in his closet…literally.  Determined to survive just long enough to cash one of the lottery installment checks, Lucy begins to help Ben hide his identity as a serial killer resulting in some very precarious scenarios.
Sounds pretty good right?  That’s not the half of it.  Reading a normal synopsis one might assume that Hanks is the star of the show but Ari Graynor completely steals the spotlight and in my opinion carries the film off into the promised land.  Her spunk and charm along with a humbled seriousness allow for the delicate balance between humor and horror, making this movie a monster all its own.  Of course Hanks holds his own wonderfully, and Jeffrey Tambor adds a dry humor to every scene he’s in (although few and far between), but it is the unexpected greatness of Graynor, an actor showing she’s got what it takes to headline a major studio film in the future (seriously put this woman in a blockbuster!), that takes this movie from just another festival favorite, to an indie that should have very wide success upon release.
You can tell that all the work that went into this movie was from a “labor of love” standpoint.  Lucky is a testament to the mentality that if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life because it doesn’t seem like the cast and crew were working at all, but instead having a blast acting out a story with some friends and the cameras just happened to be rolling.  The chemistry between all the cast and director Gil Cates Jr. is palpable and together they create a truly special piece of cinema. 
I’m beyond delighted that Lucky was the film to pop my festival cherry and if it’s any indication of things to come I’m set for a great series of films.  
These Amazing Shadows
Artwork and Review By: Daniel Albert
Day two of my Newport Beach Film Fest experience brought me down the documentary road.  With all the amazing documentaries premiering at the festival picking the right one seemed like an impossible feat.  Did I want to watch a group of extreme skiers brave the elements?  Or would I prefer to learn about architecture and art?  Hell I could have even watched a film about Santa Claus. 
More than anything though I wanted to find a documentary that I could really connect to, so in the end I chose the one thing I’m most close to as a film critic: film.  I decided that These Amazing Shadows was a perfect choice for not only me, but anyone with an affinity for film and film culture.

These Amazing Shadows is a loving film for film lovers.  The film itself is about the history and importance of The National Film Registry, a list of American cinema treasures that portrays the diversity not only of film, but also of the American experience reflected in the movie industry.  The movie is an amalgamation of anecdotes, interviews and timeless clips that come together to bestow upon audiences a true visceral experience for anyone in love with the silver screen. 

The list of people involved in the film is reason enough to see it.  Interviewees include everyone from Rob Reiner, John Waters and Christopher Nolan to Zooey Daschanel, Tim Roth and many more.  In addition to directors and actors audience members get to hear from the preservationists themselves, adding to the overall scope of the audiences look into the importance of keeping and preserving American cinema.

The most impressive part of the film for me was the breadth of the clips shown.  Of course the film showed the sprocket worn classics like Casablanca, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Sound of Music but I was also surprised to find other films such as Blazing Saddles, Toy Story, and many more contemporary films.  Not only that but the film (and the registry itself) also features many classic iconic pieces of film history, my favorite of which happens to be the Let’s All Go to the Lobby bumper that is such a classic bit of film Americana. 
It’s hard to say if there is a group this film wouldn’t appeal to because in general if you’re going to the movies you love film, even if only in the tiniest corner of your heart.  Wonderfully crafted by Paul Mariano and Kurt Norton this homage to the great history of American film is sewn together with the utmost TLC providing an end product that is not only enjoyable to watch, but also a film that spreads the message that film preservation is also essential to continuing the legacy of American culture.