The Film Festival Series is quickly becoming a monthly event that you should mark on your calendar (2nd Wednesday of each month at 6:30 pm).
Attendance grew nearly 40% over last month's screening (122 attended). The audience was very enthusiastic about both the feature movie and the short that preceded it. After the films, the audience stayed around asking questions of Dan Urness (Stunt Coordinator and Co-Producer of The Flyboys) for nearly 30 minutes.
The evening got off to a great start with the short film "A Piece of Pie." As an aside - one of the best parts of these monthly screenings is the short! Do you remember when you went to the movie and there was always a cartoon or a short before the feature. In my opinion, one of the most unfortunate aspects of the modern movie industry is the loss of the short at the local movie theater. It's not because there aren't great short films being made these days - it's the economics of the movie theater. The profit margin for the local theater operator is so low that they need to maximize the number of times they can show their features, and the short has just gotten squeezed out. One of the few places you can see these great shorts is at film festivals and film series like this one.
Someone once said, "Life is uncertain, eat dessert first." The dessert was a treat and made me want to take a quick day trip over to Pie Town, New Mexico (where the film was set). The movie was very engaging and told a great story about a young man who got a flat tire 8 miles out side of Pie Town. Scott and Paula Merrow take that simple premise and tell a first rate story that won them the New Mexico Governor's Cup Award for screenwriting. But this piece of pie really was just an appetizer for the night's feature, "The Flyboys."
There aren't many films that engender spontaneous applause from the audience. Even fewer cause the audience to break out in applause in the middle of the movie. The Flyboys is one of those movies. This is a movie that defies the categorization of films that we are used to (and that is part of the reason it has failed to find a national distributor). It's a movie about two 12 year old kids, but it is much more than a kid's movie. The movie features thrilling adventure, chase scenes, explosions and sky diving, but it isn't just an action movie. The film features friendship, courage, bullies, mobsters, flying, scenes so tense you're on the edge of your seat, and other scenes so tender you find yourself reaching for a tissue. It's a bit of everything - and so the major distributors can't figure out how to market it (the idea of marketing it as the excellent film that it is apparently escaped them). This move has won over 70 awards at film festivals around the world, usually the most coveted awards like the Best Feature Film award it won at the 2008 Sedona Film Festival (where I first saw the film). This is a movie that looks like it had a 10 million dollar budget not the two million that it actually cost to make. Believe me when I say that every dime is on the screen!
Tired of action movies that look like video games - all the action, the stunts, the sky diving, the explosions are real. No CGI! And it looks real - even when you know that what is happening is stretching the boundaries of the possible, it still has this feel of plausibility because of the way the film is made and the way the story unfolds. The performances are all excellent and the action scenes are so well filmed that you feel like you are right in the middle of it all. The chase scene where our two young heroes, Jason and Kyle, are chased through town on their bikes by a bully's older brother in his souped up Chevelle Malibu is just incredible. The sequence is filmed so well and so realistically that I felt tired by the time it wrapped up. But don't just pigeon hole this movie as a typical action flick. Director Rocco DeVilliers had the courage to make this more than just a fun and entertaining action film. The Flyboys is about something. It's about how two boys become better young men because of their friendship.
Are you tired of films where the adults are all idiots and the kids know it all? You'll enjoy this movie. These kids actually seem to have a bit of respect for adults. Jason McIntyre (Jesse James) loves and respects his grandfather, a WWII flying ace who is now an invalid and needs help with many of his basic needs. He actually seems to look forward to spending time with his grandpa. Kyle, the tougher of the two boys who is good in a fight and won't back down to anyone, loves his mother and understands the difficulty of being a single mom and raising a kid. But don't worry, these aren't perfect kids, they just seem to be kids who grow and learn from their experiences. As Jason tells Kyle, "Oh man, something bad happens every time I skip school!" But in the end, he just can't believe what has happened to him in two days with his new friend Kyle Barrett (Reiley McClendon). He's gone from being the scared little pudgy kid that gets bullied by the guys and ignored by the girls to a kid on the adventure of a lifetime. [Note: Ironically, many movie goers probably got their first look at Jesse James and Reiley McClendon when they had a small part playing young Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett as they sit in the cockpit of a bi-plane in the blockbuster Pearl Harbor.]
The kids aren't the only ones who are fun to watch! Excellent performances are given by Stephen Baldwin (the least known of the Baldwin brothers), Tom Sizemore (best known for his role as Sergeant Mike Horvath in Saving Private Ryan), Dallen Gettling (as Jason's Uncle Ed) and Jennifer Slimko. This is one of Tom Sizemore's best roles in a long career as a character actor. We see his tough side as he vows to kill whoever has stolen from him and his tender side as he talks to the two young boys about how much he misses having his own kids around (who live with their mother). Stephen Baldwin gives a very credible performance as Sizemore's younger brother who is always in trouble and in debt. Jennifer Slimko plays Kyle's mother and she is captivating whenever she is on the screen.
The Flyboys is a great film for most ages, although parents of younger children might want to see the film first. The film has some intense scenes, several people are murdered in the movie and there is some mild language, but many current TV shows are far more graphic than The Flyboys. It is my understanding that the film may be playing in the near future at the Frontier Village Cinema. If you missed the film at the Prescott Film Festival screening, be sure to get out and see this excellent film while you can.
Next month's Prescott Film Festival screening (July 8, 6:30pm at the Frontier Village Cinema) will be showing the feature documentary "Paper or Plastic" about a national grocery bagging contest. Helen Stephenson, Director of the festival, said "I have never laughed so hard at any film." Don't make the mistake of thinking that a documentary can't be fun and engaging. As one reviewer said, Paper or Plastic "has a more complex set of characters and motivations ... in it than ninety percent of the movies you'll see this Summer" (Cinematical). The film festival will also be promoting a food drive for the local food bank, so bring your non-perishable food items to the July screening - you can decide whether to use paper or plastic.