MVFF Spotlights #2: What We Do in the Shadows/Like Sunday, Like Rain/Lucky Stiff/The Boy and the World/Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

by Chad Liffmann on October 2, 2014

The 37th Mill Valley Film Festival opens tonight, October 2nd, and runs until October 12th. The Festival is screening some of this fall’s most hotly anticipated pictures:  Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher (starring Steve Carrell) and Morten Tyldum’s Imitation Game (starring Benedict Cumberbatch), and so many more.  But here at Spinning Platters, we thought we’d spotlight some of the lower profile films that risk being overshadowed by the bigger movies.  Full schedule, tickets, and more information are available at:, and be sure to check back here for more updates during the Fest.

What We Do in the Shadows
(US/New Zealand 2014, 86 min; English)

The whole crew in 'What We Do in the Shadows'

The whole crew in ‘What We Do in the Shadows’

What We Do in the Shadows resembles the result of a casual joke/idea, delivered with enough informality and humor to make it more entertaining than it could’ve been — it’s one of the funniest movies of the year.  The witty writing, from the comedy team behind Eagle vs Shark and The Flight of the Conchords, enables the film to break free from potential one-joke captivity, whereby the story expands the simple premise (vampire housemates) to wonderful subplots and hilarious surprises.  It’s definitely a movie best experienced with an energetic crowd!

– Tuesday, October 7, 7:45pm, Rafael Film Center, San Rafael
– Thursday, October 9, 4:00pm, Rafael Film Center, San Rafael

Like Sunday, Like Rain
(US 2014, 104 min; English)

Leighton Meester and Julian Shatkin in 'Like Sunday, Like Rain'

Leighton Meester and Julian Shatkin in ‘Like Sunday, Like Rain’

Like Sunday, Like Rain centers around a desperate-for-work twenty-something woman (and former musician) who ends up babysitting a precocious child musical prodigy.  It’s an unlikely friendship that could’ve been an interesting focus for a dramedy.  However, the performances are pesky and staged from the start, becoming more annoying rather than endearing as the film labors on (about twenty minutes longer than necessary).  And Deborah Messing and Billie Joe Armstrong seem tossed in purely for marketing purposes.  Nevertheless, it’s easy to see the good intentions, but just as apparent where the intentions fell through.

– Monday, October 6, 7:00pm, Rafael Film Center, San Rafael (with director Frank Whaley, Billie Joe Armstrong, and Leighton Meester)
– Wednesday, October 8, 4:15pm, Rafael Film Center, San Rafael
— Thursday, October 9, 3:45pm, Rafael Film Center, San Rafael

Lucky Stiff
(US 2013, 78 min; English)

Jason Alexander, Dominic Marsh and Kate Shindle in 'Lucky Stiff'

Jason Alexander, Dominic Marsh and Kate Shindle in ‘Lucky Stiff’

Lucky Stiff is plucky, colorful, and neurotic, and yet it’s not the best example of the often dangerous transition from stage-to-screen.  The 1988 off-Broadway stage production was based on the 1983 novel The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo by Michael Butterworth.  The plot is a mashup of Weekend at Bernie’s meets It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.  Its low budget animated segues and cartoon insertions are distracting, but the musical numbers are charming enough to keep the movie flowing.  It’s a light but forgetful romp, but some updating would’ve made Lucky Stiff a stronger date movie.

– Wednesday, October 8, 8:15pm, Rafael Film Center, San Rafael
– Friday, October 10, 11:30am, Cinéarts Sequoia Theater, Mill Valley

The Boy and the World (O Menino e o Mundo)
(Brazil 2013, 85 min)

Boy and man in 'The Boy and the World'

Boy and man in ‘The Boy and the World’

The Boy and the World features some of the most inventive and mesmerizingly gorgeous animation I’ve ever seen.  Told almost entirely sans dialogue, the story focuses on a boy who ventures away from his home in search of his father.  Part family-friendly whimsical tale and part socio-political commentary, the film may be a bit too bizarre for youngsters.  However, teens and adults will soak up the film’s strong messages and thoroughly enjoy the intricate environments and groovy Brazilian score.  It’s quite a trip.

– Sunday, October 5, 11:00am, Cinéarts Sequoia Theater, Mill Valley
– Sunday, October 12, 11:15am, Rafael Film Center, San Rafael

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
(Israel/France/Germany 2014, 115 min; Hebrew)

Ronit Elkabetz in 'Gett'

Ronit Elkabetz in ‘Gett’

I can’t remember watching a more frustratingly powerful story in quite some time.  Gett is the story of a woman battling to get a divorce from her husband.  While it’s not a true story, one can easily presume that there were a lot of factoids and case studies at play here.  Ronit Elkabetz gives a tour de force performance, meanwhile the basic premise and single location setup in which the entire film takes place get more and more intense, restrictive, and psychologically complex as the court proceedings go on…and on and on.

– Monday, October 6, 7:30pm, Cinéarts Sequoia Theater, Mill Valley
– Wednesday, October 8, 6:00pm, Rafael Film Center, San Rafael

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