Few Options (Saturday night, 11/12/11):Kenneth Johnson plays Frank Connor, a good man who made a big mistake and is finished paying his debt to society, or so he thought. After more than twenty years in prison, Frank returns to Van Nuys to restart his life, but gets stuck. He can’t get a decent job or place to live, even a driver’s license. Life has passed him by, though some things remain the same. He gets work as a security guard at a seedy strip club run by his old crime partners, and they take advantage of him, knowing he has few options.
A thoughtful, simmering drama about a man struggling to start over and do the right thing, with a strong yet nicely understated performance by Kenneth Johnson. Rainn Wilson has a small but solid role as the cousin who reluctantly lets Frank live in his garage, so long as nobody can see him.
If you’re tired of crime films with lots of action and little else, here’s a grownup character-driven film with an engaging story. An L.A. premiere from director George Pappy. For more info, check out the film’s website and Facebook page.
Rats & Bullies (Sunday afternoon, 11/13/11):A distraught teen takes what she thinks is her only option, and, sadly, it’s her last. This documentary traces the events leading up to fourteen-year old Dawn-Marie Wesley’s suicide in 2000 due to bullying. As The Huntington Beach Independent writes, the film “explores the secret world of teenage behavior, addressing violence as well as intimidation through less explicit means, such as rumor spreading, shunning and gossip.” It also explores how bullying can affect whole communities and what can be done about it, including legal action.
This is the L.A. premiere of the film Cassidy R. McMillan and Ray Buffer made to help expose bullying and prevent it. For more info, check out the film’s website and Facebook page.
Bad Actress (Sunday night, 11/13/11):This is a dark comedy about has-been TV actress Alyssa Rampart-Pillage, played by Beth Broderick, and her dysfunctional family. Her husband Bernie is the appliance king of the Valley, and Alyssa’s career has been reduced from the glamorous “HMO Nurse” series to appearing in his TV commercials. Things go awry when their daughter, aptly named Topanga, leads a protest against the family business because the appliances aren’t environmentally friendly. After Topanga dies in a tragic golf ball incident, Bernie has a spiritual awakening and tries to give away the family fortune, but Alyssa intervenes. Events spiral as people die, or go to jail, and Alyssa’s career is revived.
Spoofing contemporary pop and celebrity culture, including the crazy actress and the family and friends she harms, this film has some similarities to movies like Serial Mom and Mommie Dearest, but with a Valley touch. Directed by Robert Lee King, who also directed Psycho Beach Party. Cameo by Corbin Bernsen. For more info, check out the film’s website and Facebook page.
---By James Latham
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