LAFF 2013 Reviews: ‘Short Term 12′ ‘The House That Jack Built’ & ‘Europa Report’
As the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival is coming close to its end, we still have a few movies to share our thoughts about. So far the festival has been a big success and these three movies are some of my favorites at the festival.
Probably my favorite film at the Los Angeles Film Festival so far, Short Term 12 follows Grace (Brie Larson), a twenty- something supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers. The film focuses on her, her boyfriend and co-worker, Mason (John Gallagher Jr.) and some of the key teenagers she takes care of.
The reason why Short Term 12 is such a compelling film to watch is because it rings true. Writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton structures the film in a way that doesn’t feel forced. It’s often easy with these types of story to overdramatize everything, but not Short Term 12. There is plenty of drama and plenty of heartbreaking moments from both the teenagers, Mason and Grace herself, but they are surrounded by lighter moments and just life goes on scenes, which gives the audience the feeling of being a fly on the wall watching this lives unfold in the facility.
And as is usually the case, this type of film wouldn’t work if it wasn’t for the performances (and ooohh how amazing they were). Brie Larson is the driving force of the film and carries it seamlessly. But she’s also surrounded by an astonishing cast.
And that’s what makes Short Term 12 a must see movie. You will come out of it having cried, laughed and wanting to hug all these kids.
Favorite Moment: Ok there is a tie between two scenes:
1) When the character of Sammy runs out of the facility and all the supervisors run after him.
2) When the character of Marcus gets his head shaved. I challenge you not to get teary eyed.
Ratings: 9 out of 10 stars
You can watch the trailer for Short Term 12 below.
Two years ago, I saw a movie called Mamitas at the Los Angeles Film Festival (you can find my review here) and I not only loved it, but was blown away by one of the main actors, E.J. Bonilla. Two years later, as I was looking at this year’s slate of films, I noticed a film called The House That Jack Built starring (yes you guessed it) E.J. Bonilla and so I knew I had to go see it.
The House That Jack Built has quite an interesting premise. It follows Jack (E.J. Bonilla), who has made it his goal to take care of his family. To that effect, he has set them all up in a single Bronx apartment complex that he bought. Unfortunately, his dreams of the perfect family isn’t real. With his parents constantly bickering, his brother’s marriage unraveling and his sister coming out to him, Jack will try his hardest to keep things the way he wants them to be. But of course, things don’t turn that the way he expected them to.
Needless to say E.J. Bonilla is once again absolutely fantastic in this film as Jack. But the rest of the cast is equally as fantastic. I want to make a special mention of Saundra Santiago, who blew me away as Jack’s mother Martha.
In addition to the performances, I really enjoyed the structure of the film. The use of the building worked really well and allowed for an interesting way to go from one story to the next. As you follow a couple characters and their issues, you might have another character come in to the picture whether it’s because their outside their apartment, open their door, etc. It really creates this sense of the dysfunctional family, which is key to the story.
And while The House That Jack Built is really a tragedy in some ways, it does feature quite a few lighter moments which are very welcome. The film was a breath of fresh air for me, because its structure felt different and it managed to surprise me a couple times.
I would definitely recommend checking it out when it gets a released.
Favorite Moment: When Martha asks Jack if he’s a drug dealer. One of the most powerful scenes of the film.
Ratings: 8 out of 10 stars
You can watch the trailer for The House That Jack Built below.
Official Synopsis: Europa Report follows a contemporary mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa to investigate the possible existence of alien life within our solar system. When unmanned probes suggest that a hidden ocean could exist underneath Europa’s icy surface and may contain single-celled life, Europa Ventures, a privately funded space exploration company, sends six of the best astronauts from around the world to confirm the data and explore the revolutionary discoveries that may lie in the Europan ocean. After a near-catastrophic technical failure that leads to loss of communication with Earth and the tragic death of a crewmember, the surviving astronauts must overcome the psychological and physical toll of deep space travel, and survive a discovery on Europa more profound than they had ever imagined.
Thoughts: If you are a Sci-Fi fan and enjoy films that follow astronauts in deep space exploring the universe, then Europa Report is most definitely for you. I personally love those films and Europa Report is one of the best ones I’ve seen.
The performances and structure of the film felt so real, it’s like you were really watching a space program that really happened. We’ll have a more detailed review for the film closer to theatrical release date on August 2nd. However, you will be able to watch the movie on iTunes/On Demand starting June 27th and I highly recommend you check it out.
Favorite Moment: The ending. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that I found it to be one of the most satisfying and thought-provoking that I have seen from this type of movie.
Ratings: 8 out of 10 stars
You can watch the trailer for Europa Report below.